Imam tells of escaping Liberia’s deadly school fire

September 19, 2019
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The imam in charge of the school in Liberia where a deadly fire killed at least 27 people, many of them children, has spoken to the BBC about how he managed to escape.

Mohammed Lamine Barry said that he and the children were asleep on Tuesday night when the fire broke out in the boarding house of the Koranic school in Paynesville near the capital, Monrovia.

He eventually woke up just before midnight, but by then “the fire had finished overtaking the whole house”, he said.

He fled with his wife and child, but said the other side of the building was already blocked by the fire “and all the children left inside”.

Some of those children were as young as 10 years old, he said.

He clarified that the doors to the boarding house were not locked:

“The doors were open; but the fire overcame the house while people were sleeping; so the smoke is the one that killed the people before the fire reached.”

When I visited the school on Thursday morning investigators were at the scene looking into what had started the fire.

A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that the fire might have been caused by an electrical problem, but refused to rule out the possibility that it was a criminal act.

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