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Post-fire anger, Don Bosco staff evacuated

india Updated: Feb 12, 2010 20:38 IST

The Arunachal Pradesh government on Friday evacuated 12 Catholic fathers and brothers after irate locals attacked the Don Bosco School at Palin in Kurung Kumey district. Seven nuns and non-local teachers would be flown out on Saturday.

The attackers held the school authorities responsible for the Wednesday night fire that killed 14 children, four of them charred beyond recognition. This after school principal, Fr Kariappi Jose had pointed out that the children were staying in a privately-run hostel.

Palin, some 230 km north of State capital Itanagar, is dominated by the Nyishi tribe.

“The situation went out of control soon after the Chief Minister (Dorjee Khandu) and Education Minister (Bosiram Siram) left after a meeting with us. Scores of people began pelting stones and abusing us. We sought help from the district administration, and they obliged by flying us out in choppers,” Fr Jose told Hindustan Times from Itanagar.

The Don Bosco School principal added seven nuns of the school and some teachers would either be flown out or driven down to Itanagar under police escort.

The school, one of very few in the area, had 620 students including the 62 – all under 7 years of age – who stayed in the ill-fated hostel run by widow Biri Nyari. “We do have a hostel within the school premises, but it can accommodate only 80 students,” Fr Jose said.

Kurung Kumey – the district borders Tibetan Autonomous Region of China – police chief Apang Tamut said his men were ensuring “no school staffer comes to any harm”. The school is under CRPF protection, though.

Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister announced a compensation package of Rs 20 lakh for the kin of the victims besides ordering two probes. One is a political probe headed by Education Minister Siram to look into the demands of the local people, which included closure of the school. The other is a judicial probe into the factors that led to the mishap.

In Itanagar and adjoining Naharlagun town, the condition of Nyari and the four children admitted with burn injuries of varying degrees was said to be stable.