Saudi girls jump from window as deadly blaze consumes school

 
A deadly blaze broke out at the all-girl’s Baraim Al-Watan school in Saudi Arabia’s coastal city of Jeddah early Saturday afternoon, leaving at least two teachers dead and 46 injured, although authorities fear the death toll could still rise.
 
As the fire ate its way through the three-storey building from an underground level, girls dangled themselves from windowsills on the top floor before dropping to the ground in a bid to save themselves from the flames.
 
As smoke billows from a third-storey window, girls can be seen dangling from the ledge before dropping to the ground below. Video posted on Youtube by sip0770.
 
According to media reports, emergency rescue teams managed to help evacuate more than 840 students and employees from the structure, which houses a pre-primary, primary and middle school.
 
The incident has triggered criticism of how emergency situations are dealt with in Saudi Arabia, and prompted several parents to demand improved safety standards for the country’s public and private schools.
 
According the Website Arab News, Fouad Al-Ahmadi, a young man who contributed to rescue efforts at the school, said he was shocked by the institution’s lack of preparedness.
 
"I could not find even an emergency exit sign in the building. I was horrified to learn later that the exits were bolted and blocked with chains. I also failed to see any fire extinguishers", Al-Ahmadi was quoted as saying.
 
However, a preliminary investigation into the fire has reportedly claimed that Baraim Al-Watan was up to par. The cause of the blaze is yet unknown.
 
A helicopter arrives to help rescue students and school employees still trapped in the school. Video posted on Youtube by zeepac.
 
Crowds gather to watch rescue efforts at Baraim Al-Watan girl’s school. Video posted on Youtube by ahmad86189.
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safety concerns in SA

I am somewhat surprised that fire actually took severe hold in the building, as most are of concrete construction, surely this ensures a lack of combustible materials, save for some furniture, cupboards etc. Even then, the potential for rapid transmission is reduced by the concrete construction, I am unaware of concrete catching fire.

Regarding the matter of chained up exits, you can lay the blame for that on the religious police, and compliant control freak women who keep a strict eye on the pupils, in case they slope off to liaise with males not approved for them to be in contact with; family members usually.

When I worked in Jedda in the late 70's, the school behind our compound was 'open' in that we could look into the windows facing us. We had strip shows every evening after school was out and the girls came back to their rooms to change, often they would just stay naked , we believed they knew were were watching and did it deliberately.
This was obviously noted by someone in the school, probably another student reported the facts of the matter, and the balconies were partially bricked up to obscure the windows to prevent us seeing the girls, who were generally all teenagers.

Before the bricking up, a colleague had been signalling to one room across the way, and one girl in particular had been responding.

After the bricks were in place, they communicated by notes dropped into the street, to be picked up as soon as they were seen. As these were in English, the possibility of them being read by others was not of great concern,, not that they were explicit, and were anonymous anyway.

After a while,. some weeks, the girl managed to leave SA on a supposed family trip, to London, where she ran off to meet up with my colleague. Later they got married, and as far as I know, are still are living somewhere up north.

Apparently the family made all sorts of threats to her, but it came to nothing so I understand.

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