Indian court convicts ten over school fire that killed 94 children

Those to be convicted include the owner of the school, the principal and the headmistress

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The Independent Online

A court in southern India has sentenced 10 people to jail for a school fire in 2004 that saw 94 children burned alive in the Tamil Nadu state.

The school’s owner received a life sentence, while four others, including his wife, the headmistress and the principal, were jailed for 10 years each.

The fire which took place in a school for 4 to eleven-year-olds in the town of Kumbakonam, 200 miles southwest of Chennai, began in the school’s kitchen when a lunchtime meal was being prepared. It then caught one of the thatched-roof schoolhouses, spreading and trapping hundreds of pupils inside.

Terrible reports of children being trampled as students tried to escape came out of the tragedy, with those that examined the scene after the fire saying that some of the victim’s bodies had been burned beyond recognition

In total 94 children died, with a number of others seriously injured.

The majority of the victims involved were the sons and daughters of poor families that made their money as shopkeepers or low-paid government employees.

No teachers died as a result of the fire.

The sister of one of the victims was critical of the actions of the school’s teachers and said they “acted selfishly”.

The girl, who only gave her name as Madhumita told Indian media: “If they had considered the children as their own children, they would have saved us."

The case has highlighted just how badly equipped a number of Indian schools are when it comes to fire safety.

The school in question had no firefighting equipment, terrible exit routes and had no fire alarms installed.

Those investigating the crime also said that employees had had no training in disaster management.

Alongside those convicted, another 11 were acquitted.

Additional reporting AP