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Niger: ‘Totally mournful’ when 20 preschool children died in the fire | Niger News

The cause of the fire is being investigated, but teachers have raised the issue of placing classes in makeshift huts.

People in Niger are mourning 20 preschool children – ages 3 to 5 – trapped in a flare of terror at a school on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Niamey.

Young victims were killed on Tuesday when a fire ripped apart buildings made of wood and straw in the impoverished “Pays-Bas” residential area built in a former clay mine near Niamey airport.

On Wednesday, suffering parents and teachers gathered at the school. Wiping tears with a face mask, the director of the Habiba Gaya School said all Niger are in a state of “complete grief”.

She told the AFP news agency: “The little children, the innocent children, were actually burned alive in this fire, and explained that while the older kids were able to get out, the kids 5 years old and younger are not.

“They are small so they can’t run.”

‘Answer the call of death’

Hell spread so quickly that a mourning father, who claimed to be the only surname, Abdoulaye, said it had destroyed the classes by the time firefighters arrived on the scene.

“Rescuers quickly started and the fire was extinguished … but the intensity of the fire was huge,” fire force commander Sidi Mohamed said on public television on Tuesday.

It is unclear what started the fire immediately, but authorities say strong winds in the area have allowed the blaze to spread rapidly. [Boureima Issoufou/AP Photo]

Only tables and corrugated metal plates remained visible amidst the wreckage, with charred books, pencil cases and backpacks scattered among the ashes.

“The fire was blown from one classroom to another,” says Balaraba Ibrahim, who lives nearby.

Five-year-old niece Yasmina was among the victims.

“She went home and then went back to school. It was almost as if she were answering the death call, ”Ibrahim said, devastated.

‘Stop class in a straw hut’

The cause of the fire is under investigation and it is not clear where it started. However, teachers and parents said on Wednesday the deaths indicated the dangers of temporary external classrooms.

In Niger, which is ranked as the poorest country in the world according to the United Nations National Human Development Index, straw huts are often used to make room for students in schools too. crowded.

“It is important that the government stop classes in straw huts from here,” the Niger National Teachers Union said in a statement.

Gaya, the school’s director, repeated the call, while Ibrahim, the aunt of one of the victims, added: “There is a lot of vacant land that the state can give us to build the school. “

Security forces sealed the scene while investigators searched for evidence.

Behind the police tapes, local residents gathered in misery to examine the remains of the school buildings, some of them holding their heads.

“This is the worst thing that ever happened at a school in Nigerien – 20 children burned alive instantly. It was a huge loss for Niger ”, local resident Amadou Seyni lamented.

Another victim’s mother, sitting in the courtyard near other classrooms that were more solidly built out of damage, struggled to accept loss.

“Allah wants this to happen and there is nothing we can do about it,” she said, clutching the prayer beads.



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