Kumbakonam School fire

2004 Kumbakonam school fire accident occurred at a school in Kumbakonam town in Thanjavur district, Indian state of Tamil Nadu. A total of 94 students from the primary section of the Krishna English Medium School were burned to death in their classroom as the roof of the roof caught fire on 16 July 2004. The accident was one of the four major fire accidents and one of the largest school accidents in Tamil Nadu, and the second in terms of fire accidents in India. A committee set up by retired Judge Sampath found that the heavy casualty was the wrong tactic of the management to mislead the inspecting authorities about the student-teacher ratio by bringing the other two school students to the primary school.

Three schools, Sri Krishna Aided Primary School, Saraswathy Nursery and Primary School and Sri Krishna Girls High School, operated in the same building on Kasiraman Street in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, South India. The school was located 15 m (49 ft) from the main road in residential buildings. The school had a small door 4 ft (1.2 m) wide and the classrooms were located immediately beyond. The classrooms had no partition, and there was a stage at the end of the classrooms. On the northwest side of the stage was the kitchen for lunch and a cycling booth, both of which were painted structures. The northern wing housed the Saraswathy Nursery and Primary School in the ground floor, which had six classes, one for LKG, UKG, I, II, IV and V. On the eastern side, there was another entrance to the school. The nursery and primary school buildings had no ventilation. There was a narrow staircase 4.5 ft (1.4 m) wide near the eastern entrance leading to the first floor of the building. The lower end of the class on the west side was connected to the stalked roof of the noon meal kitchen and the cycle standing roof where the accident took place. The Sri Krishna Girls High School had 179 students, the Sri Krishna Primary School had 477 students and the Saraswathy Nursery and Primary School had 126 students, totaly 782.

The fire tragedy occurred on the roof structure of the school on 16 July 2004. The school began at 9:15 a.m. And one of the girls noticed the fire during one of the breaks at 10:30 a.m. and alerted the teacher and the news spread to other classes. The fire sparked from the kitchen thatch at midday and spread to the upper floor, which also had roofs and spread quickly. The narrow staircase had a sunny material which prevented children from leaving. The staircase was also near the kitchen. There were no gas stoves in the kitchen and fire logs were used to cook. The school was overcrowded with 900 kids in their rolls. The thatchets and the bamboo poles caught fire and fell on the children and blocked the exit. At 11 a.m. the fire service was informed. And staff came in a few minutes. But the rescue services were not effective because they were not prepared for such a large-scale fire. The local people also helped break by breaking concrete window.

Control measures that could have been taken are as follows:

  1. Safety Inspection should be carried out by the government authorities every six months to assure Hazard free environment for children.
  2. Teachers should be trained regarding what steps to take in such a catastrophic situation as they can guide children and save their lives.
  3. Rules and regulation should be made which stat that for a particular number of students studying in a school what amount of space is required to build a safe structure.
  4. Every school should have adequate exit facilities and firefighting capabilities.