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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
India school inferno: Your reaction
The damaged remains of a school classroom in the town of Kumbakonam, India
Police have arrested the head of an Indian primary school following a fire in which at least 80 children died. Reports say Pulavar Palanichamy could be charged with negligence.

There were said to be 200 children in the primary section of the Lord Krishna school in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. when the blaze broke out.

It is believed that the fire started in a kitchen at about 1100 local time (0530 GMT) and quickly spread to the thatched roof of the school's classrooms.

Safety in Indian schools is being questioned as many lack even basic firefighting equipment.

What should be done? Send your comments.

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

I live in Rhode Island where a devastating fire killed more than 100 people in the Station Nightclub fire. Since then the state has examined every public facility with scrutiny. It's a damn shame that people have to pay with their lives before appropriate preventive measures are implemented.
Ron, Providence, USA

Yet another tragedy stemming from our lackadaisical attitude towards safety
Shankar Ananthakrishnan, Bombay

Yet another tragedy stemming from our lackadaisical attitude towards safety. None of the schools I studied in had any fire-safety installations either. I am eagerly awaiting the day we abandon our "chalta-hai" approach, improve accountability, and work towards building a safe future for us and our kids.
Shankar Ananthakrishnan, Bombay, India

There are many more such mishaps waiting to happen. It's obvious that people do not take their duties seriously. Leaders visit such tragic sites, shed crocodile tears but do nothing worthwhile to stop them from recurring. Last year many school children died when a bridge collapsed in Daman yet nothing has been done yet. Nothing will improve unless responsible people for such events are suitably punished.
Shivkumar, Valsad, India

Schools are more concerned about their fees slabs, than the infrastructure and safety measures. I hope our Indian president will take immediate action regarding schools and colleges.
Kannan, Chennai, India

I'm from Tamil Nadu. When I read the news, my heart was broken and still now I cannot recover. It's really a tragedy which should not have happened. Now at least, our chief minister should stop playing with the rival parties and look into the basic needs of the state. It's dangerous to know that our children's lives are at stake! Now I'm more worried about my child who is back in Tamil Nadu.
Amala Rajan, London, UK

Disturbing news and images. It is sad the Indian government have the money and the ability to make nuclear weapons to defend its people but can't afford basic firefighting equipment to save innocent children at school. It is a shame and this is a lesson for officials who ignore the rights of the lower level class Indian people.
Nimo, Boston, MA, USA

In a country like India where short circuits are quite common, buildings should be provided with proper fire controlling equipments. The government has to promote awareness programs regarding the usage of fire extinguishers.
Koushik, Chennai, India

Putting the headmistress behind bars is not the solution
Hashim SM, Karachi
In this thickly populated and poverty-stricken country such things are not abnormal. Putting the headmistress behind bars is not the solution. Civilized nations have to come out to help more generously to raise the educational facilities in is Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Hashim SM, Karachi/Pakistan

Fire safety is pathetic in schools, cinema theatres, railway stations and all public buildings in India. All the parents should make a strong protest to the schools and colleges in which their children are enrolled and make sure that all the fire safety standards are in place before they pay for their children's next month tuition fee. My prayer goes to all the families who lost their children.
Venkata Ramasubramaniam, Gainesville, USA

Sincere condolences to the parents and relatives of these innocent children. I can assure that whoever heard of this in Pakistan also felt the same pain you did. As for what can be done, fire drills and fire alarm systems at all public places is probably an important step to reduce such incidents in the future.
Murtaza, Karachi, Pakistan

Why? Why would the kitchen facility have a thatch roof? Why have a wood burning stove in the same room as thatched roof? This tragedy is doubly horrifying as it was entirely preventable. I hope sincerely that this is the last such occurrence in India but I fear that it is likely not.
Aparna, Ottawa, Canada

Please offer my condolences to all concerned.
Ian Collier, Northfleet, Kent, UK

I hope the authorities learn from such mishaps
Hariharan, Newcastle, UK
A tragedy that was in the waiting. The central government has increased funds for the education sector. Will it spare some funds for the training of teachers in safety regulations and increase the availability of equipment? The codes on building safety are only in the books, but seldom practised in most parts of the country. I hope the authorities learn from such mishaps to prevent their reoccurrence by enforcing the regulations.
Hariharan, Newcastle, UK

This day is not for questioning building safety, that can come later. It is about mourning the loss of so many innocent children and their teachers and to pray for the families affected.
John Smith, UK

This is very, very tragic. Unless value of life is given consideration in our culture, no amount of laws can prevent this sort of tragedies. Citizens, people, parents should themselves demand more, expect more safety. Wake up! Enough is enough!!
Ashish Pujari, Hamilton, Canada

The ministry of education seems to be doing awfully little to improve the standard of government schools while the private schools are flourishing. It has sanctioned the midday meal scheme alright, but no cooking facilities or personnel are given to the schools. The result; disasters such as this and loss of precious lives.
Shweta Bhat, Bangalore, India

Tamil Nadu needs a safety standard strictly enforced for all public locations. This should not be an excuse for enforcement officials to collect bribes! Lives are at stake!
Anand Ramachandran

This tragedy is similar to the primary school fire in Chicago, Illinois, in 1958, in which 95 persons died. Safety modifications were then made in 17,000 US schools. I hope India will do the same after this disaster.
Dennis O'Brien, Reston, Virginia, USA

If we have clear codes of conduct for these men, we can probably save more people
Kalyani, Pittsburgh

I agree that no stone should be left unturned when it comes to improving the safety of buildings, but what is equally important is a prompt and foolproof rescue system. I once interviewed the fire men at a local fire station in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and was shocked to see the extent of chaos within the system. If we have clear codes of conduct for these men, we can probably save more people. Corruption is the cockroach that has penetrated every nook and corner of the Indian life such that any one can get away with atrocities like improper fire safety in a school. I hope there will not just be another enquiry commission paid off by the authorities. We need to step up and prosecute those responsible for these unforgivable sins. Our children and their future literally depend on this.
Kalyani, Pittsburgh, PA

I think this is not only India's problem - it is happening around the world. Poor people always suffer.
Sunil Rajan, US

It's heart rending to see so many young lives being destroyed beyond recognition. One wonders the logic of having the nursery children on the top most floor and the grown ups on the lower floors. Safety in schools is never given a priority in this part of the world. In my school that have about 1,000 students, I've seen some three or four fire extinguishers which is not at all sufficient. The government should come out with broad guidelines on schools that would make sure that the children are safer.
Shahul Hameed, Chennai, India

Kumbakonam is the place where I was born and brought up. My heart sinks when I think of the accident where 75 buds lost their life. Looking ahead, I am sure that many such accidents are just waiting to happen or have been averted narrowly. Buildings - not just schools, most buildings - are not built with proper fire exits. Most of them have very narrow exits and stairs without any alternative way. Unless disaster management is taken very seriously by all and sundry, these kinds of disasters - god forbid - cannot be avoided. I hope this incident is an eye opener for the authorities concerned.
Chakra Sampath, Bournemouth, UK

A similar accident took place in Srirangam, just 100 kms from the present accident site on 23 January when 46 people of a wedding party died including the bride. The wedding hall was on the top floor with narrow staircase totally inadequate for getting out quickly. The fire started from the ceremonial fire (a must in most Hindu weddings) and was then aided by the silk clothes worn by the people for the occasion and the draping of the marriage hall. Open fires should be banned in such buildings used for congregation of people. If such an order was issued and implemented after the last accident, the present tragedy could have been easily avoided. Right now many such accidents are waiting to happen.
Krishnamurthy, Hyderabad, India

This was a tragedy waiting to happen and more will unless there is a strong push from the government to improve fire safety regulations
Karthik, Atlanta

I remember this is not a one-off incident. I used to live in Madras, capital of Tamil Nadu and twice during the National festival Diwali; roofs in schools near my house caught fire due to the fire crackers. Couple of reasons -
1. Thatched roofs are still allowed as roofs and they catch fire instantaneously.
2. Not all buildings have acceptable fire safety - narrow staircases or unusable fire extinguishers and not enough fire trucks that can reach places immediately. This was a tragedy waiting to happen and more will unless there is a strong push from the government to improve fire safety regulations.
Karthik, Atlanta, GA

Really sad to know about this tragedy. This should give the new government of India an indication of how low their infrastructure, especially in the rural areas and the small town areas, is as it took so long for the rescuers to help. The government should make some safety measures compulsory for all the schools and all public places around the country. Simply singing the slogan of developed country and high growth rate won't make India developed. Please people of India work for common India and not your own India.
Rajiv, Mumbai

It is shocking and tragic to learn the loss of more than seventy school children in a fire accident in Kumbakonam. The main reason for the rapid spread of fire is the utter lack of fire fighting equipment in Tamil Nadu in particular and in India in general. If only there had been fire regulations and if only they have been implemented in a proper way this tragedy would not have occurred. The school authorities are to be blamed for this callousness. More than the school authorities it is the government who should be blamed. The government should enforce strict fire regulations and see that the schools have proper fire fighting equipment and escape routes. Unless then fire tragedies like this will continue to occur.
Suresh Aboodas, London, UK

It is really distressing to see this tragedy occur in my home town. Despite the sizeable number of fire accidents that have occurred over the last decade, fire-safety measures are yet to be employed. This mishap will start off another investigation committee which will soon fade into oblivion without reaching any decision. Safety equipment should be mandatory for all buildings, without which they should not be given license to operate. It will probably take an eternity to get this done, given the size of our country.
Bharat, State College, PA


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