Arunachal hostel fire toll now 14, locals vandalise school

Itanagar, Feb 12 (IANS) The toll in the hostel fire tragedy in Arunachal Pradesh went up to 14 with two more bodies recovered from the debris. Irate locals Friday vandalised the school, forcing authorities to airlift 14 teachers and supporting staff for security reasons, officials said.

A police spokesperson said two more bodies, burnt beyond recognition, were recovered from the debris by rescue workers Friday.

‘Friends and family members were able to identify 10 of the 14 bodies so far with the remaining four bodies charred beyond recognition,’ a senior police official said.

A massive fire early Thursday (around 1 a.m.) gutted a privately-run hostel made of bamboo and hay at Palin in Kurung Kummey district, 260 km north of Itanagar.

All those dead were students aged between five and 12 studying at the Don Bosco School, a missionary school.

There were 62 students at the hostel when the fire broke out.

Eight students were injured and were being airlifted to hospitals in Itanagar Thursday. Authorities claimed the fire was accidental as students had lit candles because of a power failure.

‘The injured are stated to be out of danger,’ the official said.

On Friday, hundreds of angry locals armed with sticks and stones vanadalised the school and residential accommodation of teachers.

‘Fourteen of us, including teachers and other support staff of the school like cooks and workers, were airlifted by a helicopter to Itanagar by the authorities for security reasons,’ Father Jose Karippai, principal of the school, told IANS by telephone.

‘Seven of our sisters (nuns) are still at the school premises and we hope they would be safe.’

The school ran classes from kindergarten to seventh standard with 620 students enrolled.

‘The incident was shocking and unfortunate, but then we cannot do anything as it was a private hostel and it is the government that has to now frame rules and regulations of private hostels safety,’ the principal said.

The school has its own hostel that accommodates about 170 students.

‘Our hostel is managed properly, but it is not possible to accommodate all the children in our hostel and so some parents keep their wards in privately run hostels on their own,’ Karippai said.

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