It has emerged that siblings and triplets were among the 15 children killed along with 30 other victims of the fire that tore through the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt on Sunday.
According to relatives, church officials, a local hospital and Egyptian news outlets, the child victims included five-year-old triplets Mohrael, Youssef and Philopator Bassem Amir.
The siblings died along with their mother Irina Atef Ramzi, 34, their grandmother Magda Habib Nabih, 61, and their aunt, Mirna Atef Ramzi, 25.
The singer Miretya Emad, Magda’s niece and Irina’s cousin, mourned them in posts on her Facebook account.
“With Christ, which is far better. Remember us before the throne of grace,” she wrote. “I now have six saints in heaven.”
Miretya Emad’s family was not the only one to lose three children in the tragedy.
Five-year-old twin girls Mariam and Barsina Tamir Wajih and their three-year-old brother Ibrahim were named on a list of victims published by the Imbaba General Hospital.
The Abu Sefein Church, in Giza’s working-class Imbaba district, was packed with people celebrating Mass that morning, including children and their parents. Many other children were attending classes or a nursery on the four-storey building’s first floor, where investigators believe the blaze started following an electrical short-circuit.
The health ministry said most of the deaths were the result the smoke inhalation, and also a stampede when people rushed to flee the church through a blocked exit.
Photographs taken at a funeral service on Sunday night appeared to showed their mother mourning beside their coffins and holding up three fingers to signify her children.
Also named on the hospital’s list of victims are 10-year-old Karolos Aryan, 13-year-old Mina Azmi, and 16-year-old Mina Fakhir.
The Copts United news website said Karolos’s mother also died. But his brother Rami survived.
Rami spoke to reporters about his ordeal from his hospital bed on Sunday. He said that the three of them went to Mass together but became separated during the blaze, and that he did not know what happened to them. Rami was reportedly told of their fate by his cousins following the interview.
Local media also published quotes from a woman who said she lost two children in the fire, one of whom was called Mina.
“I am the one who took them to Heaven,” Esnad said, explaining that she had woken them up to go to Mass. “Mina told me to go on Wednesday,” she added. “But I refused and told him that he would go today.”
The church’s bishop, Abdul Masih Bakhit, 50, was among the adult victims named by the hospital. His wife was photographed at the funeral service, clutching what appeared to be a charred piece of his clerical vestments. (BBC: Text, excluding headline)