A COMMUNITY is reeling after a fire that ripped through a school dormitory took the lives of 11 students.
Shockingly, cops suspect the fire was deliberately started by former students who had been expelled from St Bernard’s Secondary School in Rakai, southern Uganda.
According to Daily Monitor, it appears they had deliberately locked the door of the dormitory with two strong padlocks before dousing the property with petrol and setting fire to it.
Eyewitness, Felix Kayanja Kabogere, had rushed to the scene when he saw the flames and used an axe to bust the padlocked door down.
“Since the door turns inside, as we were pushing to enter, the terrified victims were also busy pushing to flee the fire. This confusion caused a stampede and suffocation, we thank God that we managed to save quite a number,” Felix said.
Nine of the 11 were burnt beyond recognition. DNA tests are being undertaken to identify who they are.
The school management said 11 students had been suspended for “ill discipline” and told to go home. Instead, they had rented rooms just meters away from the school.
The school has also come in for harsh criticism.
Hillary Tuyambaze, the southern region Police Fire Brigade officer, said he had recently visited the school and advised that certain steps be taken.
“In fact, among the things we told them to address included removing the burglar-proof windows, removing expired fire extinguishers, retooling guards, installing smoke detectors and CCTV cameras. It is unfortunate that all those things had not yet been put in place,” he said.
Ugandan boarding schools have been plagued by fires, sometimes deliberately started. This is the third such incident just this year.
In 2008, 20 died in the country’s worst fire at a school when Budo Junior burnt down.