Dorm fire kills 12 schoolgirls

August 24, 2009 10:08:51 AM PDT
A fire that ripped through a dormitory in rural Tanzania, killing 12 schoolgirls and wounding 23 others, likely began after a student fell asleep with a candle burning, officials said Monday. The victims who died Saturday night were between the ages of 13 and 16 in the rural Iringa district, some 285 miles (460 kilometers) southwest of Dar es Salaam. They are due to be buried Tuesday near their school.

Fires at school dormitories are common in parts of Africa where there is little access to electricity and students study by candlelight at night.

Iringa's Regional Police Commander, Evarist Mangalla, said preliminary investigations indicate the fire was caused by a candle after a student fell asleep studying.

"We switch off the power generator after 10 p.m., when students wishing to continue their studies use candles or kerosene lamps," said the school's headmaster, Raymond Mlasu.

Tanzania's worst school fire in recent years was in 1994, when 43 girls died at a school near Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.

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