18 girls killed in fire at school dorm in Thailand

18 girls killed in school dorm fire in Thailand
Overnight fire kills 18 girls in Thai school dorm_00004229

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  • The dormitory house girls aged between 5 and 12 years old
  • Thai investigators are trying to confirm the cause of the blaze

Bangkok (CNN)Parents rushed to an elementary school in Thailand Monday, where 18 girls were killed overnight in a fire at their school dormitory.

"It is still very chaotic here," the school's manager Rewat Wassana told CNN. "We are in the process of identifying bodies, none of the parents can claim their children's bodies yet," he said.
    Bodies lie on trolleys awaiting identification after the Sunday night blaze.
    Thirty-eight children -- all girls between the ages of 5 and 12 -- were sleeping in the dorm when the fire broke out at the private Pitakiatwittaya School Christian elementary school in Thailand's northern Chiang Rai Province, according to lead investigator, Police Captain Kachornsak Pongthit.
    It's not clear what caused the fire, which is believed to have started around 11:00 p.m. local time Sunday (12 midnight Saturday ET).
    The blaze started at about 11 p.m. local time Sunday night while the girls were sleeping.
    Twenty girls were rescued after firefighters on ladders scaled the walls of the building, said Sawang Momdee, chief of Chiang Rai's fire unit, who led the operation. Of the 20 rescued, five were injured.
    "We were trying to save everyone through the window, but the fire spread very quickly," he said. "We have done our best."
    In a message on its Facebook site, the school, which is known for providing free education to hill tribe children, posted an image and said the school would be closed until Friday due to the blaze.
    The school has been operating for five years and teaches 142 students from pre-elementary to grade 6.
    About 60% of the students were poorer children from surrounding villages who had been receiving free education and accommodation from the Christian charity.