Police in Uganda are investigating the cause of a fire at a boarding school for visually impaired students that killed 11 girls, ages four to 13.
The fire at the Salama School for the Blind in Uganda’s central Mukono district broke out shortly after midnight Monday, in a girl’s dormitory that was occupied by 17 children.
Kampala deputy police spokesman Luke Owoyesigire said police have deployed a forensics team that will carry out DNA tests before the bodies of the dead children are handed over to family members.
“The cause of the fire is currently unknown. But so far, eleven deaths as a result of the fire have been confirmed. While six are in critical condition,” Owoyesigire said.
The Salam School for the Blind, in the town of Kisoga, is home to 70 visually impaired children.
Hudson Kiyaga, the town’s mayor, told VOA the fire at the isolated school has left members of the neighboring community in shock. Kiyaga said the school’s power switch is in the matron’s room, but she did not know what started the fire. The matron escaped the blaze, but was unable to save any students.
Charles Nkuse, a school board member, said the school headmaster called him at 12:15 a.m. to tell him the school was on fire and children had died.
The fire broke out just a few days before a planned visit by Britain’s Princess Anne and Uganda’s first lady, Janet Museveni.
“We expect to get the first lady, the daughter of the late Queen, Princess Anne, and the husband. They were to be with us on Friday, but I really don’t know what will take place,” Nkuse said. “But, we are still in terrible condition because, I think, the police are bringing back the dead bodies from Mulago and the parents are here.”
Since January, several schools in Uganda have caught fire but security officials have yet to determine the cause of the blazes.
In its guidelines to schools, the Ministry of Education advises that all dormitories among other school buildings have fire extinguishers at several locations. However, most schools do not have such safety measures in place.