• September 29, 2008
  • 3 minutes read

Fire destroys Egypt’s National Theater, two workers arrested

CAIRO: Central Cairo’s Public Attorney on Sunday arrested two theater workers on suspicion of negligence and misuse of public funds that has led to the fire which gutted Egypt’s National Theater on Saturday.

Stage manager Girguis Mikhail Hanna and electrician Mohamed Bakry Darwish, were arraigned for failing to follow safety regulations which led to an electric short circuit at iftar time.

General Nasr Zakaria from Civil Defense Operations told the official MENA news agency that the fire was caused by a short that resulted in an explosion in the theater’s air conditioning system.

“There was a big blast, then smoke started rising from the roof,” Mahmoud Osman, the owner of a shop across the square told AP. “Then flames engulfed the whole roof area and damaged parts of the wall.”

Six fire-fighters were taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.

The theater, which was built in 1935 and is one of the oldest theaters in Egypt, sits in the heart of Downtown Cairo, ironically not too far from the Shoura Council, which burnt down last month.

The Shoura Council fire killed one firefighter and injured 13 people. It first broke out on the third and top floor of the building and spread to the second floor after causing the roof to collapse. It caused severe damage to the parliamentary archive, and the first floor housing the main assembly hall.

The Ministry of Interior has not yet issued an official statement about the National Theater fire.

While Ahmed Saleh from the Ministry of Culture’s media office said the ministry has not yet made an official statement, he did invite Daily News Egypt to attend an event in Old Cairo Sunday evening where Culture Minister Farouk Hosni will be speaking.

On the other hand, Maher Salem, first undersecretary at the Ministry of Culture, told Ikhwan Online that the Ministry of Culture is blaming residents of the area who live near the National Theater for the fire. They say one of these families lived on the roof of the theater and used inflammable material.

“I do not think that the fire that erupted in the National Theater will affect Egyptian theater,” Salem added.

On the very same month in 2005, a fire in the overcrowded Beni Suef Cultural Palace killed 46 people.