Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Investigations into school fires launched


Police have launched investigations into the cause of two fires in one month that have razed buildings at Byimana School of Sciences in Ruhango District, Southern Province. The latest outbreak on Monday destroyed a dormitory and chapel, prompting fears of suspected arson.
Chief Superintendent Hubert Gashagaza, the Southern Region Police Spokesperson told The New Times that  “The investigation will require a thorough analysis of all evidences and in two or three days, we might come up with a conclusion”. 

Police probe school fires 

POLICE have launched investigations into the cause of fires which have gutted Byimana School for Sciences in Ruhango District, Southern Province.

In a strange case of lightning striking the same place twice, the school has endured two fire incidents in less than a month. The latest was on Monday evening when fire burnt a dormitory and chapel, prompting fears of arson.

Police have started investigations, Chief Superintendent Hubert Gashagaza, the southern region Police spokesperson, told The New Times in an interview at the school yesterday.

“We want to establish what caused the fire and where it started to ascertain whether it started accidentally or it was arson,” CSP Gashagaza said. “The investigations will be thorough and in two or three days, we might come up with a conclusion.” 

Monday’s fire started shortly after 7.30pm when students were having dinner, according to officials. 

It comes barely a month after another fire broke out at the school, reducing a dormitory to ashes and completely destroying property of 277 occupants.  

Then, authorities sent 400 O-Level students back home as they organised support for them and prepared other rooms to accommodate them. 

But a week after the students returned, fire broke out again, destroying a dormitory and an annex chapel. The dormitory was formerly a dining hall and accommodated about 155 students, mostly the victims of the earlier fire. 

Like in the April 23 incident, no student was injured in Monday’s fire. 

When The New Times visited the school yesterday, students were in a meeting with officials from the Ministries of Education and Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs. 

The meeting, chaired by the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, Matthias Harebamungu, was also attended by local leaders in Ruhango district as well as army and Police officers. 

Sources said the meeting sought to chart a way to ensure security in the school and to console the students.

Outside the school’s main gate, dozens of concerned parents had gathered as they waited to ascertain whether their children were safe. 

“We have reasons to worry. There have been two fires in just a month. I think serious investigations should be carried out,” Uzziel  Munyengango, said.

 A Senior One student, who said his entire property was destroyed, told this paper that he is yet to overcome the trauma induced by the two fires. 

The headmaster, Brother Alphonse Gahima, said the students will be assisted to get materials to allow them go on with their studies.

Every dormitory will be manned by a security officer 24 hours a day, Gahima said.

Ruhango District has availed Rwf3 million in emergency fund to support the recovery efforts, Gahima said, adding that students had been receiving counselling to ensure that they regain the morale to go on with their studies after the fire. 

“We will not be sending them home this time round,” Gahima said.  

APARUDE school burns

Meanwhile, fire also broke out at APARUDE, a private secondary school in Ruhango District, destroying a dormitory. The fire started shortly after 1pm yesterday, officials said. 

The head teacher, Jean Claude Niyitanga, said rescue efforts managed to salvage some students’ property. 

Residents joined Police to put out the fire before it could spread to other buildings, he said. The dormitory housed about 50 male students.

“We are devising means to support to the affected students to allow them go on with their studies,” Niyitanga said. “They will not be sent home.”

 The cause of the incident was yet to be established by press time, but authorities suspected a short circuit.

The fire started from the dormitory’s roof and there are indications that electric cables might have been burnt before the fire started, an official said. 

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar) is coordinating efforts to support the affected schools. 

Eric Budederi, Midimar’s disaster management officer, said they are providing relief for the affected students.

The donation, which include clothes among others, are expected to reach the schools today, he said.


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