Beni Suef, Egypt- A fire that began when an actor knocked over a candle on the set of a play ripped through a crowded theater in this central Egyptian city late Monday, sparking a stampede of audience members and killing at least 29 people, survivors and officials said.
The fire spread quickly across the set, which was made entirely of paper and had been ringed with candles. Panicked audience members trampled each other trying to get out the one available exit door, which at one point was partially blocked by a piece of wood that fell during the blaze, survivors said.
"Everyone was trying to save themselves and they were falling all over each other," Mohammed Arafat Yassin, 27, recovering at Beni Suef hospital, told The Associated Press. "It was like being inside a barbecue grill. Everyone was burning."
The blaze broke out in the "Culture Palace," a facility run by the Culture Ministry, on a downtown street of Beni Suef, a farming town of 200,000 people about 60 miles south of Cairo. The cultural center was on the third day of a nine-day theater festival featuring plays performed by troupes from around Egypt.
About 1,000 people were watching a theater group from the nearby region of Fayoum performing a play called "Grab Your Dreams" when the fire broke out at about 11:45 p.m.