Fire whipped by strong winds raced through a luxury hotel early Thursday, killing 16 people and injuring 70, including many who broke bones jumping out windows or sliding down bedsheets to escape, authorities said.
The dead included at least one American, said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Marcelle Wahba. Three other Americans were seriously injured, said police Brig. Abdel-Rehim el-Kenawy.The fire burned for nine hours at the six-story Heliopolis Sheraton northeast of Cairo, which had neither fire alarms nor sprinkler systems. Tourism Minister Fuad Sultan said the blaze started in the Nubian Tent restaurant, which was attached to one of the three blocks of the hotel.
Sparks jumped from a clay oven to the ceiling of the tent, igniting flames that quickly spread to the adjacent building, said Sultan.
Winds of nearly 25 mph fed the flames, which destroyed much of the 630-room hotel, including its restaurants and elaborate lobby, where live birds flew among tropical plants and trees.
"We were asleep when my wife got up and noticed orange flames outside the window," said Fred Pirkey, a 57-year-old Atlanta realtor. From their sixth-floor room, "we made it through the smoke to the third floor," where a man was tying sheets together to attach to the windowsill.
"With his help, we got around 20 people down to the roof of the ground floor below, from there we jumped to safety," he said. "We are very fortunate to be alive."