Eight held over Turkey girl dorm fire as anger grows

Anger grow­ing over pos­si­ble neg­li­gence

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Turkey yes­ter­day de­tained eight peo­ple over a deadly fire at a dor­mi­tory for school­girls that left 12 peo­ple dead, as anger grew over pos­si­ble neg­li­gence that caused the tragedy. The blaze, which of­fi­cials said was likely caused by an elec­tri­cal fault, tore through the build­ing’s wooden in­te­rior on Tues­day night as pan­icked young­sters tried to jump from win­dows to safety.

Some of­fi­cials sug­gested many of the vic­tims were killed on the top floors of the dor­mi­tory in the south­ern re­gion of Adana af­ter they were un­able to open a fire door to flee the flames. “We will learn lessons from this and we will do what needs to be done to en­sure this never hap­pens again,” said Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Is­met Yil­maz, adding that an in­spec­tion in June had not un­cov­ered any is­sues. In Ankara, Turk­ish po­lice used tear gas to dis­perse a protest out­side the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry by ac­tivists an­gered that the dev­as­tated dor­mi­tory was man­aged by an in­flu­en­tial re­li­gious sect.

DNA tests needed

Those de­tained as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ac­cu­sa­tions of “caus­ing death by neg­li­gence” in­clude the man­ager of the dor­mi­tory in the Aladag dis­trict of Adana, the Do­gan news agency said. Five peo­ple were de­tained ini­tially while three other sus­pects were be­ing treated for wounds in hospi­tal. A to­tal of 14 ar­rest war­rants have been is­sued.

Do­gan said most of the dead would be iden­ti­fied us­ing DNA tests, in a sign that the vic­tims were too badly burned to be iden­ti­fied vis­ually. Ten of those killed were school­child­ren aged up to 14, while the fire also claimed the life of a mem­ber of the teach­ing staff. The four-year-old daugh­ter of the dor­mi­tory man­ager be­ing held by the po­lice also died, Do­gan said. Twenty-four peo­ple in­clud­ing 16 chil­dren were in­jured, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Veysi Kay­nak told a press con­fer­ence.

Fire doors shut?

Of­fi­cials said the fire was likely caused by an elec­tri­cal fault which then spread rapidly due to the dor­mi­tory’s wooden struc­tures and car­peted floors. Adana gover­nor Mah­mut Demir­tas said Tues­day some of the school­girls were in­jured af­ter jump­ing out of win­dows to es­cape the flames. He added that none of those in­jured was in a se­ri­ous con­di­tion. Adana city mayor Huseyin So­zlu told Turk­ish tele­vi­sion Tues­day that the dor­mi­tory’s fire door was locked and that most of the dead were re­cov­ered from near that exit.

But Kay­nak said that ac­cord­ing to ini­tial find­ings, the door had been un­locked. “There’s even a cur­tain hang­ing near the exit door un­dam­aged,” he said, but added that the sit­u­a­tion would be­come clearer af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The build­ing is as­sessed twice a year by the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry, Kay­nak said, adding that it was last checked in June. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment banned the broad­cast of images of the catas­tro­phe’s af­ter­math, a com­mon mea­sure af­ter such dis­as­ters.

‘A shame and a crime’

The head of the Egitim-Is ed­u­ca­tion union Mehmet Ba­lik said the dor­mi­tory be­longed to a re­li­gious Sunni Mus­lim sect in Aladag known as the Su­ley­manci. The girls had been sleep­ing there as the state-run dor­mi­tory had been de­mol­ished ahead of ex­pan­sion works, Do­gan re­ported. Me­dia re­ports said the Su­ley­manci ac­com­mo­da­tion was the girls’ only op­tion in the area.

The Su­ley­manci is one of the big­gest re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties in Turkey and is renowned for hav­ing a ma­jor in­flu­ence in pol­i­tics. The proKur­dish Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) blamed the gov­ern­ment for fail­ing to prop­erly fund ed­u­ca­tion ac­com­mo­da­tion, forc­ing poor fam­i­lies to use ac­com­mo­da­tion run by re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties. “Such fires are not the first and will not be the last so long as the gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy and ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity re­main in place,” it said in a state­ment.

“It is a shame and crime to con­demn our chil­dren to un­con­trolled dorms and any form of abuse.” But rul­ing party spokesman Yasin Ak­tay em­pha­sized that “the fact the build­ing be­longed to a re­li­gious com­mu­nity” could not be ac­cepted as the sole rea­son for the fire. “It is too early now to make links but if there is such a sce­nario, if there is such ne­glect, it will not be ig­nored,” he said. — AFP

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