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80 children killed in TN school inferno - "Sri Krishna" as school name made no difference

nabadip - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 19:09:14 +0530
80 children killed in TN school inferno

Kumbakonam (TN), July 16. (PTI): Eighty students aged between eight and ten years were today charred to death while over 25 others received serious burns when a major fire whipped through their school in this town of Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district.

While most children died on-the-spot and were charred beyond recognition, some others succumbed to injuries in hospitals.

The victims were in the age group of eight to ten, District Magistrate J Radhakrishnan, said adding that no teacher was among the victims.

The fire, which is believed to have started from the kitchen when the noon meal for nursery children was being prepared, soon spread to a row of thatched roof classrooms where students from class one to class five were present, police and eyewitnesses said.

Five class rooms on the third floor of the Saraswati Nursery School were gutted in the fire that broke out at 11 am. Around 900 students were present in the Sri Krishna Girls High School complex housing the primary, middle and high schools.

While the high school and middle school students escaped on noticing the fire, the nursery school children got trapped as the thatched roof collapsed on them making their movement difficult.

The injured were rushed to government and some private hospitals where their condition was stated to be serious.

Radhakrishnan told PTI that the fire completely destroyed five classrooms. Some of the victims also died of suffocation as the exit passage was narrow, he said.

Earlier reports said 75 bodies had been recovered from the spot. Radhakrishan, who is camping at the spot along with the Range DIG, said the fire had been put off and relief operations were on in full swing.

Radhakrishnan said there were around 900 students present at the time of the mishap in the school complex. He said so far 32 students had been admitted to the Government Hospital with burns.

The fire had totally razed down five classrooms and several victims had died of suffocation as the passage from the classrooms was narrow preventing their escape, police sources said.

This is the second major tragedy in this temple town after the death of over 60 people during the 1992 Mahamaham Festival in a stampede.

Fire tenders from Kumbakonam and neighbouring towns battled the flames for nearly two hours.

The incident is the second major fire mishap in the state this year after the inferno at a marriage hall in Srirangam, near Tiruchirappalli, in which 59 people were charred to death in January.

After the Srirangam fire, the state Government had ordered that proper fire-fighting system should be installed in all public buildings. But, the school complex lacked such a system.
nabadip - Fri, 16 Jul 2004 19:25:58 +0530
TN students paid the price for obedience to teachers

Kumbakonam (TN), July 16. (PTI): Obedience to teachers appears to have played a key role in the death toll to go up in the fire tragedy that struck a private school complex in this temple town in Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district which claimed nearly 80 lives.

Police said most students did not move out of their classes as one of the teachers ordered them to remain in their places as the fire was "too minor" and was being doused.

"Do not get panicky.. remain in your place," was the teacher's command to the pupils who ultimately fell victims to the inferno.

District Collector Dr J Radhakrishnan, told newsmen that the dead included 27 boys and 33 girls. The remaining 20 were charred beyond recognition.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who flew in here by a helicopter, visited the accident site and also spent nearly 45 minutes in the government general hospital where the bodies had been kept.

The Collector said 27 more children were undergoing treatment in the hospital of whom the condition of 15 was critical.

Another reason for the toll to mount was the narrow escape route between the third floor, where the tragedy took place, and the other two floors.

Fire service personnel had to demolish the walls with the help of cranes to gain easy access to the third floor.

As news of the tragedy broke out, a pall of gloom descended on the temple town where people in large numbers had gathered to offer worship on the auspicious 'Dakshyana punniya Kalam', the first day of the Tamil month 'Adi'.

Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the narrow Kasiraman Street where the school complex is situated. On hearing about the tragedy, a large number of people gathered, making the rescue job of fire-fighters difficult.

Half burnt and charred bodies of children were piled up on the third floor and stench enveloped the entire building.

Grief-stricken parents and relatives of children were sobbing, anxiety writ large on their faces, awaiting news of their wards.

According to a passer-by, as soon as he came to know of the tragedy, he pulled out at least half a dozen students to safety while another said some children died due to suffocation.