At least 17 girls died as they slept after a fire swept through a private school dormitory in northern Thailand
, a police commander said, adding several others were either missing or injured.
“The fire broke out at 11pm on Sunday (local time). Seventeen girls were killed and two are still missing, with five injured” police Colonel Prayad Singsin, Commander of Vingpatao district in Chiang Rai told AFP.
The boarding-house of Pithakkiart Witthaya School in Wiengpapao distirct is home to girls aged from 3 to 13 years old, he said.
There were 38 schoolgirls staying at the boarding-house. They came from hilltribe villages in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai to study in the town, according to local media.
After the blaze broke out, officials could only evacuate a few of the girls while the rest were trapped inside.
Photographs on the school’s Facebook page showed firefighters struggling to douse the flames as they engulfed the white, two-storey building.
Poverty means some resort to drug smuggling for narcotics gangs across the remote area, known as the “Golden Triangle” and bordering Laos and Burma.Hill tribes are often beyond the reach of state resources, suffering at school as well as in their health and development.
Thailand has poor health and safety standards and accidents are common across the kingdom.
Photographs on the school’s Facebook page showed the wooden dormitory engulfed by flames.
Seventeen young girls died and several others were injured when a fire swept through the dormitory of a school for children of hill tribes in northern Thailand, officials say.
The fire started late at night, meaning many of the children at the charity-run Christian school were asleep and unable to escape as flames engulfed the two-storey building.
“The fire broke out at 11pm on Sunday (4am yesterday NZT). Seventeen girls were killed, with five injured,” Chiang Rai police Colonel Prayad Singsin told AFP.
Two of the injured were in a serious condition, he said.
“The fire is out, but the cause of the blaze is still under investigation,” Prayad said.
A Chiang Rai provincial official said the privately run school is home to girls between 6 and 13 years old.
“There were 38 students inside the dormitory when the fire broke out. Some were not yet asleep so they escaped,” the province’s deputy governor, Arkom Sukapan, said.Those in the dormitory were drawn mainly from the deprived local hill tribes who live too far away to travel to the school.
“But others were asleep and could not escape, resulting in the large number of casualties.”
Photographs on the school’s Facebook page showed firefighters struggling to douse the flames as they tore through the wooden building.
Thailand is home to a patchwork of hill tribes who mainly live in the remote northern area bordering Laos and Burma.
Many are descendants of refugees from Burma and China and exist within subsistence farming communities with their own distinctive dialects and rituals.
They mostly live beyond the reach of state resources, meaning hill tribe children suffer at school, as well as in their health and development.
Poverty means adults are easy prey for drug gangs who pay them to smuggle narcotics – including heroin and amphetamines – across the zone, known as the “Golden Triangle”.
Thai security forces frequently engage in deadly gun battles with hill tribe drug mules in the region. That link engenders prejudice among many Thais and hill tribes are often portrayed negatively in the media.
However, Chiang Rai town and the surrounding hills are popular with foreign tourists for hiking and adventure sports.