BANGKOK: Seventeen girls died after a fire swept through the dormitory of a school for children of hill tribes in northern Thailand, officials said on Monday, with a survivor describing fleeing as flames engulfed the building.
The fire started late on Sunday night, meaning many of the children at the school run by a Christian charity were asleep as flames spread through the twostorey wooden building.
“The fire broke out at 11 pm on Sunday. Seventeen girls were killed, with five injured,” colonel Prayad Singsin of the police in the town of Chiang Rai said.
Two of the injured are in a serious condition, he said, but initial fears that two more girls were missing had been discounted after rescuers picked through the charred debris. The school in Wiang Pa Pao district is home to girls aged between six and 13.
Those in the dormitory on Sunday night were drawn mainly from the deprived local hill tribes, who live too far away to travel to school every day. Television interviewed one girl aged around 10 who escaped with several friends.
“I woke up and saw a lot of smoke. It was dark. The fire had broken out downstairs so I called to my friends” she said, describing her flight. But those who did not wake up in time died.
“There were 38 students in the dormitory when the fire broke out. Some were not yet asleep so they escaped,” deputy provincial governor Arkom Sukapan said.