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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 July, 2004, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Schools closed after India fire
A burnt-out classroom after the school fire which killed 90 children
The fire gutted the school, where hundreds of pupils were in class
More than 200 schools have been ordered to close in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu for safety reasons following Friday's deadly school fire.

Ninety children died at the Lord Krishna primary school in Kumbakonam when a burning thatched roof fell in.

Now thatched roofs in both government and private schools are being removed on orders from the state's chief minister J Jayalalitha.

Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress party, has visited Kumbakonam.

She says the government will give a total of 10m rupees (116,000) in compensation and aid for the families of the victims.

Officials suspended

Approximately half of the sum will go towards ensuring the safety of schools in the area.

In the meantime, schools in the region with illegal roofs have been ordered to close.

The state has also suspended four education officials and ordered that all schools be inspected.

Highly flammable thatched roofs made of dried palm, straw or coconut leaves are common in the area, as a cheaper alternative to cement.

But Tamil Nadu's fire rules, introduced after other fatal school fires, prohibit the use of such materials for school buildings.

Friday's fire in Kumbakonam is believed to have started in the school's kitchen when a stove set fire to the thatched roof.

The BBC's David Waddell
"Around a third of the children who survived have returned to nearby schools"

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