Investigators Believe Faulty Neon Light Started the Blaze that Killed 17 Girls at Chiang Rai School Dormitory
CHIANG RAI – In the wake of the recent blaze that occurred at a girls’ dormitory of Pitakiatwittaya School in Wiang Pa Pao district, Chiang Rai province, Education Minister Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan revealed that related officials have been dispatched to the site to investigate the cause of the deadly incident as well as to inspect the school’s security and alarm systems.
He said investigators piecing together the tragedy of the Chiang Rai school dormitory fire say that the likely cause is heat from neon lighting left on all night.
No definitive cause of the fire has yet been found but the most likely answer is that a plastic casing of a ground floor neon light in an activity room melted and dripped onto four piles of clothes below that then ignited.
Authorities said that five people had responsibilities at the dormitory that catered for children of Hmong and Lahu hilltribe families. One dormitory staff member was having a shower nearby when the fire took hold. Two maids had already gone home. Of two teaching assistants one was on holiday and another – Suchada Sase-mua. 23 – was sleeping with the children.
The fire in the female dorm at the Pithakkaiat Witthaya School killed seventeen students aged 6 to 12 on Sunday night. Some five others were hospitalized with injuries one seriously with 23% burns to her back and arm.
It took fireman three hours to bring the blaze under control. The downstairs area was gutted. Some 38 students were in the building in separate rooms on the second floor. Some managed to escape with the help of a teacher fashioning makeshift ropes.
Some of the victims were burnt beyond all recognition. Five have been identified with the rest being identified using DNA evidence.
The kindergarten and primary aged children slept in five separate rooms. Two Hmong sisters were known to be among the dead.
Education Minister Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan said he has assigned the Office of the Private Education Commission (OPEC) to provide assistance for all affected students and people.
Deputy Secretary-General of OPEC Peerasak Rattana said an initial assistance fund of 5,000 baht has been given to relatives of each victim for organizing the funeral rite.
People can also directly donate money at Wiang Pa Pao District Office.
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