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Children burn to death in India hostel fire

Most of the 62 students managed to escape from the blaze, which broke out at the children's hostel in Palin, a small town in Koloriang district, on the border with China. The students, both boys and girls, were asleep at the Holy Angel Don Bosco School hostel when the fire started late on Wednesday. Eight injured students were being airlifted to hospitals in the state capital of Itanagar160 miles from the hostel. "Efforts are on to look for anybody trapped or buried in the debris of the hostel," district magistrate Remu Kemkei told Agence France Presse news agency.

He said authorities were investigating the cause of the fire but they believed it was accidental. Students had been burning candles and using oil lamps because of an overnight electrical power failure. The private hostel, attached to a missionary school in a tribal area was made out of bamboo and hay. Most of the school’s students are members of tribes who come from remote areas to study at what is considered to be one of the best schools in the region.  Local people helped put out the fire and took the injured, some of whom were badly burned, to a nearby hospital. But police reinforcements were rushed from the district headquarters of Koloriang to Palin, as tension mounted when as locals clashed with school authorities following the incident, The Times of India reported. Parents and locals were accusing the administration of not ensuring fire safety measures. There is no fire brigade in the district.

The hostel was home to children from nursery age upwards, said Deputy Commissioner Remo Kamki. But because phone lines are poor in the district, not much information has come through. Last night (Thursday) the official death toll was put at 10, although The Times of India put it at 14. Father Jose of the Don Bosco provincial headquarters in Itanagar said the hostel belonged to a private individual. "Though our school has a hostel, there are also some private hostels nearby which provide accommodation to a number of students coming from the interior areas," he told The Indian Express. Founded by St. John Bosco, an Italian saint-educator of the nineteenth century, Don Bosco describes itself as an ‘international organization of men dedicated full time to the service of young people, especially those who are poorer and disadvantaged.’ “Wherever we work, ‘Youth Resource Development’ through education and evangelization is the focus of all our concern,” says its web site “…because we believe that our total dedication to the young is our best gift to humanity.”

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children