Massive fire breaks out at popular downtown Cairo market

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A huge fire broke out in the early hours of Monday at a popular market of street vendors in downtown Cairo, Egypt state TV reported.

The fire, which started at a six-storey hotel in the Attaba area and extended to an adjacent warehouse building, burnt for over eight hours into daylight morning hours.

TV footage showed a sheet of flames leaping from windows of two buildings and dense plumes of smoke shooting into the sky. Some seven hours later, clouds of white smoke continued to be seen as firefighters sprayed water inside and sirens blared nearby.

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Forty-five people were wounded in the fire, many of whom suffered asphyxiation, health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed told Ahram Online.

Twenty-five people were sent to hospital while the others were treated at the scene, he added.

The Andalus Hotel, located in the famous commercial street of Al-Rewaiei, was rapidly evacuated and 32 fire-fighting and hydraulic ladder vehicles were sent to the scene to extinguish the fire, state news agency MENA said.

The blaze has damaged a number of shops and vendor’s storehouses.

Attaba is a crowded area in downtown Cairo where the streets are dotted with vendors selling a wide variety of goods. The neighbourhood also contains many small low-price shops.

An eyewitness said in TV comments that firefighting teams and police were late to arrive to put out the blaze.

The cause of the blast was not immediately clear and an investigation is currently underway, an official said.

Cairo Security Chief Khaled Abel-Al and acting-Governor Ahmed Taymour went to the area in downtown to follow up on efforts to contain the fire.

It is the second fire to break out in the area in a week after a short circuit last Monday caused a blaze some 100m from the new fire.

Three were injured in last week’s blaze.

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