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The BBC's Clare Lyons
"No escape"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 March, 2000, 06:27 GMT
Students killed in Tuvalu fire

The South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is in mourning after a 17 female students died in a fire at the country's only secondary school.

A woman staff member was also killed when the blaze swept through a dormitory at the school on the island of Vaitupu.

The dormitory was locked at the time, but 19 students managed to escape by breaking down a door.

No firefighting equipment

The blaze is believed to have started when a candle set fire to bedding.

The building was made of wood and there was no firefighting equipment on the island.

All government offices and shops have been closed and the prime minister of Tuvalu Ionatana Ionatana and senior government ministers are travelling to the area to attend the funerals.

Tuvalu - a collection of islands with a total population of fewer than 10,000 - was formerly known as the Ellice Islands.

It gained independence from Britain in 1978.

International attention was focused on the island nation last month amid concerns that global warming and sea-level rises could swamp the islands - one of the lowest-lying nations in the world.

Mr Ionatana has asked New Zealand to allow more Tuvaluans to migrate.
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18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
High tides threaten Tuvalu
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