YANGON, Myanmar – A fire caused by faulty electrical equipment killed 13 boys at an Islamic school in Myanmar today, the fire service said, although some Muslims voiced concern since it followed a wave of anti-Muslim violence in the Buddhist-majority country.
The boys suffocated after the fire broke out in a dormitory of the school in the central, multi-ethnic Botataung district of the former capital of Yangon at about 2:40 a.m.
Yangon Region Fire Service said it was setting up a team to investigate the fire with the police, the electricity company and representatives of Muslim groups.
“The fire, caused by the overheating of the transformer placed under the staircase, spread, trapping the boys sleeping in the attic. As a result, 13 twelve-year-old boys died of suffocation after inhaling smoke,” a fire service officer said, reading from a statement.
About 70 boys were thought to have been sleeping in the dormitory, which is in a mosque compound. Most managed to escape when fire officers broke open the double-locked doors to the building, Colonel Win Naing, chief of Yangon Division police, told reporters.
He said a case had been opened that could lead to action for negligent homicide being taken against those responsible for the mosque. An imam, or religious teacher, was taken in for police questioning today, said an official at a mosque where the surviving children were being housed.
Neighbours and witnesses said the doors to the dormitory may have been locked due to security concerns after violence elsewhere in the country in March, and the windows were barred. (Reuters)