Fire kills 32 in theatre in Beni Suef, Egypt

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Tuesday, September 6, 2005

A fire Monday night in a theatre in Beni Suef, Egypt, has killed at least 32 and injured a similar number. The fire was started during a performance when a candle on the set was knocked over by an actor and the curtains were set alight. The blaze spread to the stage, which was covered in paper, and then quickly engulfed the rest of the building.

There was a stampede as the panicking audience of at least 100 rushed for the only available exit door, which was blocked at one point by falling supports as the building slowly burnt. The other exit was covered in paper and caught fire before it could be used. Firefighters brought the fire under control after several hours, but not before the building was destroyed.

It is believed the deaths were caused by burns, smoke inhalation and injuries from the stampede. The remaining injured were reported by hospital director Ahmed el-Sharqawi to have burns covering between 30% and 90% of their bodies. A medical team specialising in burns and related care has been flown in from Cairo, and Cairo hospitals have indicated that they are ready to accept patients if necessary. The fire occurred on the third day of a nine-day theatre festival in the farming community, 120 km from Cairo, which featured groups from all over Egypt.

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