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The BBC's Cathy Jenkins in Nairobi
"There has been massive criticism from distraught parents"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Kenya fire toll confusion
Burnt-out dormitory
It has been impossible to identify most of the bodies
The Kenyan authorities have so far found it impossible to give a definitive death toll from Monday morning's fire at a school near Nairobi.

It was widely reported on Tuesday that 68 pupils had died, but on Wednesday only 58 deaths were confirmed by the police with 10 pupils missing presumed dead.


Fifty-eight bodies were found in the burnt-out dormitory, but only one had so far been identified.

No accurate register of boys survived the fire, so it has been difficult to confirm who is missing and who is dead.

Meanwhile, the police have detained the school's three night watchmen for questioning, but they have not been arrested.

Autopsies on the 58 bodies have revealed that most of the students died after inhaling toxic fumes.

The government's chief pathologist, Dr Kirasi Olumbe, said that 45 deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning, eight students were crushed by falling debris and five burnt to death.

A local newspaper gave some hope to waiting parents by reporting that one missing boy had turned up alive and well.

It also reported that one boy had died from injuries at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, bringing the toll to 59.

Investigation

The police continue to suspect arson.

They say that people at the school had reported smelling petrol before the fire broke out.

The fire started in the early hours of Monday morning, burning through the rafters of the dormitory and bringing the roof down on the bunk beds below.

fire destruction
The fire blazed through the dormitory
Local police chief Julius Narangui said: "It is one of the worst things I have ever seen. The number [of victims] is so high and they are all burned beyond recognition.

"There was a scramble but many people were trapped by the flames."

Most of the injured were taken to Machakos district hospital, although those badly burntwere rushed to Nairobi's main hospital, some 60km away.

Many of the 130 teenage boys in the dormitory at the Kyanguli secondary school did manage to scramble to safety after the fire began at 0140 local time.

However, one of the doors is reported to have been locked and iron burglar bars would have prevented escape via the windows.

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See also:

26 Mar 01 | Africa
In pictures: Kenya school fire
26 Mar 01 | Africa
Children die in Kenya school fire
26 Mar 98 | Africa
Kenya fire kills 24 teenagers
08 Mar 01 | Africa
Nigerian school blaze probe
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