A five-man committee investigating a fatal fire at a Jeddah girls school has concluded the five students who confessed to accidentally starting the blaze should be held responsible.
Three female teachers at Baraim Al-Watan school died in the fire, which also injured at least 52 others, after the students said they burned some papers in the basement to test out the warning system, local daily Al-Madinah reported Sunday quoting informed sources.
The source expected the committee to submit its final report to Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and to hand over the building to its owner within two days to start repair and maintenance work.
The source said the resumption of studies in the school building depended largely on the completion of refurbishment work, provision of all safety facilities and the approval of the Department of Education.
The source said the committee conducted extensive investigations that included questioning 60 members of school staff including the owner, the five girls, Civil Defense personnel who dealt with the fire and eyewitnesses.
He added that the committee also made use of criminal evidence collected from the scene and the technical findings of architectural engineering offices in completing its report.
According to the source, the findings of the committee included:
u The involvement of the five accused students in causing the fire according to their own confessions.
u The acquittal of the Civil Defense from any accusations of slackness or delay as it found emergency units arrived at the scene only eight minutes after they were informed about the fire.
u Some people who happened to be at the scene were responsible for some deaths and injuries when they asked teachers and students to jump out of the windows.
u Some of the school staff committed individual mistakes when dealing with the incident in violation of the evacuation plan on which they were trained.
u Safety facilities and emergency exits were available at the school and its building was suitable for studies.
Meanwhile, Director of Girls Education Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Thaqafi said the five accused students were continuing their studies at other schools and added their case was being considered by the concerned authorities.