MUKONO, Uganda -- A fire at a boarding school for blind students killed 11 children in a rural community just outside Uganda's capital, Kampala, the school's administrator and police said Tuesday.
“One of our dormitories caught fire and burnt at around midnight. The matron made an alarm," Francis Kinubi, the school’s founder, said. "This was one of the dormitories for the young girls and it caught and burned down and, very unfortunately, 11 girls, small girls, perished."
Police said in a statement that six other people were hospitalized in critical condition. They said it was not yet known what caused the overnight fire that gutted a girls' dormitory at Salama School for the Blind in the district of Mukono.
Fatuma Ndisaba, a top official in Mukono, told local broadcaster NTV that the victims, including girls between the ages of 7 and 10, were burned beyond recognition. The victims' bodies will be identified through DNA analysis, she said.
“You cannot tell who is who,” she said, speaking of the charred bodies.
A small crowd that included distressed women gathered outside the school's gates.
Police cordoned off the scene, and military officials were seen investigating. Britain's Princess Anne, who is expected in the East African country this week, was scheduled to visit the school on Friday.
Fires at schools have been a cause of concern for education officials in Uganda, where classrooms and dormitories are often crowded, and there’s usually no firefighting equipment in place. Officials have cited poor electrical connections as sparking blazes in some cases.
Kinubi, the Salama School for the Blind administrator, acknowledged a lack of safety equipment.
“I have to admit that we do not have systems like fire extinguishers because we have always been appealing to government to provide us with some of these gadgets, but in vain,” he said.
Two dormitories at a prominent boarding school in Kampala were destroyed in separate incidents in 2020. No one was hurt.
In 2008, 19 elementary school students were killed in a nighttime fire at a boarding school in Kampala.
Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.