Eleven school children died, and six others were in critical condition on Tuesday, after a fire broke out in the middle of the night in the dormitory of their school for the blind in central Uganda.
The fire struck around 01:00 a.m. Tuesday (22:00 GMT Monday) at Salama School for the Blind in Luga village, about 45 kilometers east of the capital Kampala, Ugandan police said.
“The cause of the fire is currently unknown but so far eleven deaths… have been confirmed and six people in critical condition have been admitted to hospital,” police said in a statement.
Surprised in their sleep, these blind students found themselves trapped due in particular to the burglar-resistant windows that fitted the building, in accordance with government legislation, Ugandan Minister for Disabled People, Hellen Grace Asamo, explained to AFP: “They couldn’t escape and were burned.”
Authorities were still trying to identify the victims as of Tuesday evening.
“The students were burned beyond recognition and we are going to do DNA tests to establish their identity,” said Mukono district security chief and presidential representative Fatuma Ndibasa.
The dormitory housed mainly girls, attending primary school, but the school director, Francis Kirube, told AFP that some disadvantaged boys from the village were also housed in a room adjoining the dormitory.
– “No words” –
Richard Muhimba’s son is among the victims.
“I have no words to describe the pain I’m going through,” said this resident of the neighboring town of Mukono, reached by telephone by AFP.
“I visited him on Saturday, he was in good health. And three days later he died,” he added before hanging up.
Footage broadcast by Ugandan television station NTV showed forensic teams conducting searches in the security perimeter around the dormitory, a small white building with blackened window and door frames and a damaged tin roof.
“We will investigate the causes of the fire and if there are culprits, they will be apprehended,” assured the Minister of Internal Affairs, General Kahinda Otafiire.
Built in 1999, the Salama school welcomes dozens of students, aged 6 to 14, who are also housed there.
Britain’s Princess Anne, sister of King Charles III, was due to visit the facility on Friday as part of a visit to Uganda, which celebrated 60 years of independence from Britain on October 9.
In recent years, several fires in schools have mourned this country in the Great Lakes region.
In November 2018, eleven students died in the fire in their dormitories in the south of the country.
In April 2008, 18 schoolgirls were killed, also in the fire of their dormitory, in a locality about thirty kilometers from the capital.
In March 2006, at least 13 children died and several others were injured in a fire that hit an Islamic school in western Uganda. In July of the same year, six children died in a similar fire in the east of the country.