At least 17 schoolgirls have been killed in a fire that broke out at their dormitory in northern Thailand, police say.
The fire started at the dorm of the non-governmental Pitakiatwittaya School in northern Chiang Rai Province late at night on Sunday.
“There were 38 students inside the dormitory when the fire broke out. Some were not yet asleep so they escaped,” the province’s deputy governor, Arkom Sukapan, said. “But others were asleep and could not escape, resulting in the large number of casualties.”
Girls aged three to 13 study at the school.
Another two students are missing and five were injured, with two of them being in critical conditions, police Colonel Prayad Singsin said on Monday.
“The fire is out, but the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Investigators are trying to confirm what caused the fire,” he added.
Reports said the children’s parents rushed to the school on hearing the news of the fire, but were told that bodies were still being identified, and that they had to wait until identification work was complete.
The school is known for providing free education to children from impoverished local “hill tribes” in the mountainous area. Hill tribes are people of ethnic minorities who mainly live in the remote northern areas of Thailand bordering Laos and Myanmar.