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19.09.2019 Liberia

Pupils killed in Liberia school fire of Guinean origin: ambassador

By AFP
Dozens of bodies were taken from the school in bags.  By Zoom DOSSO (AFP)
SEP 19, 2019 LIBERIA
Dozens of bodies were taken from the school in bags. By Zoom DOSSO (AFP)

At least 26 pupils killed in a huge fire at a Liberian Koranic school when flames engulfed their dormitory were of Guinean origin, Guinea's ambassador to Monrovia said on Thursday.

The children were sleeping at the school when the fire began overnight Tuesday, according to police, which also killed at least one teacher.

Police spokesman Moses Carter said the blaze may have been caused by an electrical fault but refused to rule out the possibility of arson.

Guinea's Ambassador to Liberia Abdoulaye Dore told AFP the victims were all of Guinean descent but could not say whether they all had Guinean nationality.

"I have the total list in front of me, 28 people, all the names are Guineans," he said.

Map of Liberia locating Paynesville, where a Koranic school fire killed dozens of children.  By Valentina BRESCHI (AFP) Map of Liberia locating Paynesville, where a Koranic school fire killed dozens of children. By Valentina BRESCHI (AFP)

The death toll has varied between 26 and 28 dead, according to different official sources.

Dore described the victims as part of an "important community" of people of Guinean origin living in Liberia.

In a statement on Wednesday, Guinea President Alpha Conde expressed "great emotion" over the deaths and gave his "deepest condolences to the Liberian people and the Guinean community in Liberia".

"We extend our sympathy to the bereaved families. We don't know the cause of the fire yet, but we will encourage our investigators to find how it happened," he added.

On Wednesday, rescuers in white masks and surgical gloves carried the children's bodies in bags from the burnt-out building as crowds of people and relatives pressed together outside.

President George Weah visited the site in Paynesville, on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia, and promised a full inquiry.

The victims' bodies are prepared for burial.  By Carielle DOE (AFP) The victims' bodies are prepared for burial. By Carielle DOE (AFP)

"We are here to encourage parents of the victims to have strength, because it is painful to lose your kids in this manner," Weah told reporters at the scene.

The victims were buried swiftly in a collective ceremony, in the Muslim tradition.

The Liberian authorities are all too familiar with deadly fires, often caused by malfunctioning generators, though "not on this scale," the presidential spokesman said.

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