Photo courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma.
At least thirteen children were killed early Tuesday in a blaze at an Islamic boarding school in Rangoon, Burma’s biggest city. Police immediately blamed the fire on an electrical failure, but according to reports, the hundreds of local Muslims who gathered near the scene expressed suspicion that this could have been done intentionally.
One of students being treated in an ambulance. Photo courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma.
The school that burned on Tuesday morning, which is part of a complex that also houses a mosque, was home to 75 boarding school students, according to local reports. They were still asleep when the fire began. Most of them escaped alive after the police knocked down a door.
The complex burned from the inside. Photo courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma.
Zaw Min Htum, a member of a local Muslim youth organization who rushed to the school after learning of the fire, told the Associated Press that he had inspected the building and that he had seen no burned wires; that in fact the fuse box was in good condition.
Meanwhile, a police officer at the scene told gathered reporters “not to report that there is a conflict in [Rangoon] – we’re here to stop the conflict.”
Burma has been on edge following a wave of attacks against Muslims these past weeks, in which at least 40 people have been killed. The unrest has been concentrated in central Burma, but fears that the violence could spread to Rangoon caused the authorities to suggest some Muslim businesses shutter their shops late last month. Back in February, a Buddhist mob had attacked another Islamic school and Muslim-owned stores in a suburb of Rangoon.