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Arson theory in Kenya school fire

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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- A blaze at a Kenyan school, which killed 58 teenage pupils is being treated as arson, police say.

A further 28 pupils were seriously injured in the fire and six of them -- who have been taken to hospitals in the capital Nairobi -- were described as critical.

Machakos District Police Commissioner Hussein Dado said: "First the fumes engulfed them, and then the roof caved in. The fire spread very quickly,"

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CNN's Catherine Bond: Arson suspected

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Local Police Chief Julius Narangui said he suspected arson caused the fire although investigations at the scene are continuing.

CNN correspondent Catherine Bond said administrators at the government-run school had smelled petrol the night of the fire but a search of the sleeping block failed to find the source.

She added that one theory for the high death toll was that terrified pupils trampled one another as they tried to get out of the dormitory before being overcome by smoke fumes.

All the dead pupils were boys aged 15 to 19.

The intense heat also caused the iron and wood roof to cave in onto the top bunks in the dormitory which contained 96 beds.

The fire broke out at Kyanguli Secondary School, in Machakos district, at about 1.40 a.m. (2240 GMT) on Monday.

Relatives gathered outside the blackened single-storey brick building, as fire brigade officials picked through charred wooden debris searching for clues to the cause of the blaze.

At Nairobi's Kenyatta Hospital, reporters for Reuters news agency saw two badly burned survivors swathed in protective gauze and attached to drips.

Some of the injured have burns over 50 percent of their bodies, Tabu Simiyu, a doctor at Kenyatta Hospital, said.

The fire came just weeks after 23 schoolgirls were burned alive in a locked hostel in Nigeria.

A similar blaze in 1998 killed more than 20 schoolgirls in a locked dormitory at a school at Bombolulu near the Kenyan Indian Ocean port of Mombassa.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED SITE:
Kenya - CIA Factsheet

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