A massive blaze broke out on Saturday at the historic building of Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) in central Cairo, engulfing the top floor of the structure, according to local reports.
No casualties were reported, and at least seven fire trucks from the General Administration of Civil Protection were dispatched to combat the fire, the Cairo Governorate confirmed. The fire was largely extinguished after several hours of intense firefighting efforts.
The incident occurred just days after the Awqaf employees had relocated to new premises in a burgeoning capital city under construction in the desert, 45km east of Cairo. The relocation is part of a larger strategy to draw investment and rejuvenate central Cairo.
Governor Khaled Abdel Aal praised the civil protection forces for their swift action in extinguishing the fire and took immediate measures to prevent the blaze from reigniting. He has also ordered the creation of a committee to examine the condition of the building post-fire.
The Public Prosecution and criminal investigation department are expected to conduct an inspection to determine the cause of the blaze, prior to the commencement of a clean-up operation.
The Awqaf building, whose main part was constructed in 1898 with wings added in 1912 and 1927, had been mostly emptied of its employees, who moved to the new capital at the end of July. Flames were reported to have been seen shooting out of a second-floor window, as per a Reuters account.
Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments, personally inspected the firefighting process and expressed gratitude to the civil protection team for their dedication and control of the fire. He later referred the incident for investigation to the Public Prosecution and the Administrative Prosecution.
As the building was vacated on July 1, the minister has urged the continuation of maintenance contracts for the old structure. Assistant Minister Abdullah Hassan Abdel-Qawi also confirmed that an assessment of the damage was underway.
A source informed Arab News that four ambulances were promptly dispatched to the accident site, though no casualties were found. The building’s vacancy played a critical role in averting injuries.
The incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of safety measures in institutional buildings, even those that may be unoccupied. The effective and coordinated response by various authorities also underscores the country’s commitment to emergency preparedness and community well-being.
Some of the former ministry buildings are anticipated to be repurposed under Egypt’s Sovereign Fund, an initiative that aligns with the government’s broader plans to attract crucial investment to the heart of Cairo. The ministry is awaiting reports from security services regarding the fire’s cause before deciding on further action.
Image Credit: Reuters