Twenty-six children and two teachers have died after a fire broke out on Tuesday night in a boarding school in a suburb outside the Liberian capital Monrovia.
The children were sleeping in a building attached to a mosque at a religious school in Paynesville City when it caught fire at around 11 p.m., Liberia time, Presidential Press Secretary Isaac Solo Kelgbeh said.
The children, some as young as 10, were not able to escape the building because there was no fire exit and there were security steel bars on the windows, Kelgbeh told CNN.
Two teachers are also among the dead. While two survivors were taken to a local hospital and remain in a critical condition.
Liberia’s President George Weah visited the site Wednesday morning and said:
“I was touched by the terrible news and decided to rush here to see for myself the families of the children and the community leadership to extend my sympathy.”
“It is saddening even when a single citizen dies; what much more about 28 children, potential leaders, who were aspiring for a better and prosperous future,” he added.
The President said he will launch an investigation into how the fire started.
My prayers go out to the families of the children that died last night in Paynesville City; as a result of a deadly fire that engulfed their school building. This is a tough time for the families of the victims and all of Liberia. Deepest condolences go out to the bereaved
— George Weah (@GeorgeWeahOff) September 18, 2019
Rescuers in white masks and surgical gloves carried the children’s bodies in bags from the burned-out building as crowds of people and relatives crushed together outside.
Parents at the scene wailed and wept as police fought a surging crowd to make way for ambulances taking away the bodies.
The victims will be buried on Thurday in line with Islamic funeral rites, which stipulates that a person must be buried as soon as possible after they die, often within 24 hours.