DAR ES SALAAM: Ten Tanzanian schoolchildren were killed when a dormitory at a privately-owned primary school in the north of the country caught fire, a senior government official said on Monday.
Police, the fire department and other government officials have started an investigation into the fire, the cause of which is unknown, Marco Gaguti, the regional commissioner for Kagera, told Reuters by phone.
“This dormitory was housing 74 pupils and when it caught fire the pupils started fleeing, but due to the impact of the fire some couldn’t make it on time,” Gaguti said.
Seven other children suffered from burns during the inferno, which started before midnight.
Police are working with relatives of the pupils to identify the charred bodies, Gaguti said, adding that investigators are expected to establish the source of the fire in the next 14 days.
Mbaraka Mahmoud, the chairman of Itera village where the school is located, said he was woken up after midnight. When he dashed to the scene of the inferno, he found villagers struggling to stop the fire which had engulfed a large part of the dormitory.
A roll call of the students later showed some pupils were missing, prompting rescuers to start digging through the black rubble and burnt iron sheets to find the bodies, he said.
“It is a sad day in our village. Parents, relatives and villagers are devastated,” Mahmoud said.
Twelve secondary school students were killed in 2009 when a fire razed a dormitory in Iringa, a region located in the central area of the East African nation.
(Writing by Duncan Miriri, editing by Ed Osmond)