Burma: Deadly Fire Hits Muslim School

Police stand in front of a mosque and school dormitory that were damaged by a fire in Rangoon on 2 April 2013A fire at a Muslim school in the Burmese city of Rangoon has killed 13 children, officials say.

Police officers said the fire was caused by an electrical fault and not due to any criminal activity. Most of the children escaped unharmed.

The fire comes amid an upsurge in violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

At least 40 people have been killed since 20 March and curfews have been imposed in some areas.

Police spokesman Thet Lwin told the AP news agency the two-storey building – part of a mosque – in eastern Rangoon sheltered about 75 orphans.

Most of the children escaped by running out of a door after police knocked it open, he said.

Fire crews put out the blaze and the building is reported to be badly burned but intact.

The Myanmar [Burma] Police Force said on its official Facebook page that the victims had died from burns or smoke inhalation.

“According to the investigation by township police officers, the fire was caused by excessively high (electric) voltage,” it said.

One report said all of the victims were boys.

Riot police were sent to the area as people gathered outside the mosque, AP reported, concerned the blaze was linked to recent communal violence in other parts of the country.

One report said that the dormitory had locked its doors because of the recent tensions, so the children struggled to escape.

On 22 March, a state of emergency was enforced in the central town of Meiktila in Mandalay region where violence clashes erupted between Muslim and Buddhist communities after a reported argument at a gold shop.

Many houses and buildings were destroyed in the town and thousands of people, mostly Muslims, displaced.

The violence follows more widespread clashes last year in Rakhine state between the Buddhist community and Muslim Rohingyas – a stateless minority group not recognised by the Burmese government.

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President Thein Sein has warned that the government will use force if necessary to stop “political opportunists and religious extremists” from fomenting hatred between faiths.

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