- Associated Press - Thursday, March 11, 2021

CAIRO (AP) - A fire at a garment factory near Cairo on Thursday killed at least 20 people and injured 24, officials said, the latest such incident in Egypt where safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced.

The cause of the blaze, which ripped through the four-story plant in Obour, an outlying district of the greater area around the Egyptian capital, was not immediately known, according to a statement released by the government.

Fifteen firefighting vehicles were dispatched to the scene to put down the blaze while ambulances were ferrying the casualties to nearby hospitals, the statement said. It added that a team of experts was looking into the damage and trying to assess the impact the fire might have had on any of the adjacent buildings in the area.

As heavy gray smoke rose from the building, firefighters and police cars sealed off the site, making it inaccessible to television crews.

No further information was immediately available.

Factory fires, as well as blazes elsewhere, are common in Egypt, due to the lax enforcement of industrial and other safety measures.

Last month, a thirteen-story apartment building in Cairo caught fire after a blaze erupted at an unlicensed leather factory that occupied its first three floors. Fire fighters struggled for almost a day to extinguish the flames amid fear that the building might collapse over the Ring Road, the major freeway of the Greater Cairo metropolitan area.

The fire ended up damaging the building’s foundations, which eventually forced municipal authorities to demolish it.

And last December, an intensive care unit at a private hospital, also in Obour, killed seven coronavirus patients. At the time, the state-run al-Ahram daily reported that an initial investigation blamed an electric short-circuit for the fire.

A similar blaze erupted at the coronavirus ward of a private hospital in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria last June, also leaving seven patients dead. There was another fire in May in a coronavirus isolation center in Cairo that didn’t cause any casualties.

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