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Children die in Islamic school blaze

Electrical fault blamed but Muslims express sectarian fears

Children die in Islamic school blaze
Daniel Wynn, Yangon
Myanmar

April 2, 2013

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A fire at an Islamic school in Yangon has killed 13 children, officials said on Tuesday.

Authorities said the blaze, which caused extensive damage to the school, was caused by an electrical fault.

“An electric inverter in the school got overheated and the fire began,” state-run radio announced, quoting the authorities.

Local Muslim residents initially feared the blaze was started deliberately and was linked with last week’s sectarian violence in other cities that killed dozens of people.

Riot police were quick to cordon off the scene as a crowd of nearly 150 people gathered near the building located in the east of the city. Soldiers were later deployed around the building compound that encompasses a mosque, a school and a dormitory.

More than 70 children were in the school when the fire broke out at about 2am, police spokesman Thet Lwin told the Associated Press.

Most of the children escaped the building through a door the police were forced to kick open, he said. Other doors appeared to have been locked.

The 13 who were killed had become trapped and had mostly died of smoke inhalation, he said.

The area in which the school is located has a significant Muslim population, many of whom say they are now living in a state of fear and anxiety since anti-Muslim mob violence spread across the country. Some believe the fire was another anti-Muslim attack.

“I don’t think an electrical fault can kill as many as 13 children,” said Aung Naing Oo, a Muslim working for a Malaysian relief agency.

“But we will wait for further police findings before making any conclusions.”

According to state-run television, a committee including Islamic leaders has been set up to investigate the cause of the fire. 

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