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Children killed in Myanmar school fire

Electrical fault blamed for blaze that killed 13 boys in Islamic school dormitory in Yangon.

Last Modified: 02 Apr 2013 13:34
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The building housed a mosque and a religious school where children were staying while taking a summer class [AFP]

Thirteen children have been killed after a fire, apparently caused by an electrical fault, engulfed an Islamic school dormitory in Myanmar's largest city.

The dead in Tuesday's fire in Yangon, all boys, died of suffocation in the early morning, witnesses and officials said.

Police officer Thet Lwin said the fire was triggered by an overheated inverter "and not due to any criminal activity".

The building housed a mosque and a religious school where children were staying while taking a summer class. Local residents said the victims were believed to be orphans.

Riot police were deployed nearby as some Muslims gathering outside the charred building feared the fire was linked to sectarian violence that has shaken the nation.

Neighbours and witnesses said it appeared the crowded dormitory locked its doors due to heightened security concerns.

"It seemed the boys didn't get a chance to get away because the doors were locked because of the unstable situation," a resident said.

Investigation promised

The blaze comes against a backdrop of heightened Buddhist-Muslim tensions in Myanmar. Forty-three people have been killed in sectarian violence since March 20.

Police called for calm and promised to establish a committee - including Muslim leaders - to look into the cause of the fire.

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok in nearby Thailand, said that there already have been differences in opinion about the incident, within the small community around the school.

"Some Muslim people who live in the area, who we spoke to on Tuesday morning, say that they believe that it was an attack. On the other side of the coin, Buddhist people living in the area are saying that this was a tragic accident," said Hay.

He added that the authorities were concerned that this incident could spark further unrest between the Muslim and Buddhist communities in the country. 

A police officer said the 13 dead in Tuesday's blaze were among more than 70 people sleeping at the school when the fire broke out.

"The rest of the children were rescued," he said.

The Myanmar Police Force reported on its official Facebook page that the victims died from burns or smoke inhalation.

"According to the investigation by township police officers, the fire was caused by excessively high [electric] voltage," it added.

According to official records, electrical faults and overheating are major causes of fires in Myanmar's largest city.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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