Istanbul: Turkey on Wednesday detained six people suspected of negligence after 12 victims, most of them young schoolgirls, were killed in a fire that ravaged a dormitory.
The blaze, which officials said was likely caused by an electrical fault, raced through the building’s wooden interior on Tuesday as panicked youngsters tried to jump from windows to safety.
Some officials suggested many of the victims were killed on the top floors of the dormitory in the southern region of Adana after they were unable to open a fire door to flee the flames.
Those detained as part of the investigation into accusations of “causing death by negligence” include the manager of the dormitory in Aladag district of Adana, the Dogan news agency said.
Dogan said most of the dead would be identified after DNA tests, in a sign that the victims were too badly burnt to be identified visually.
Ten of those killed were schoolchildren aged up to 14 while the fire also claimed the life of a member of the teaching staff.
The four-year-old daughter of the dormitory manager being held by the police also died, Dogan said.
Twenty-four people including 16 children were injured, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told a press conference.
“A fire burns where it falls but the pain has deeply affected us all,” he said.
“They were the future of our country,” he added, referring to the youngsters killed.
Officials said the fire was likely caused by an electrical fault which then spread rapidly due to the wooded structures inside and carpeted floors.
Adana governor Mahmut Demirtas said on Tuesday some terrified schoolgirls were injured after jumping out of the window to escape the flames. He added that none of those injured was in a serious condition.
Adana city mayor Huseyin Sozlu told Turkish television on Tuesday that the dorm’s fire door was locked and that most of the dead were recovered from near that exit.
But Kaynak said that according to initial findings, the door had been unlocked.
“There’s even a curtain hanging near the exit door undamaged,” he said, but added that all details would be clarified after an investigation.
The building is controlled twice a year by the education ministry officials, Kaynak said, adding that it was last checked in June.
The Turkish government slapped a broadcast ban on footage of the catastrophe, in a familiar move after extreme events.
The head of the Egitim-Is education union, Mehmet Balik, said the dorm belonged to a religious Sunni Muslim sect in Aladag known as the Suleymanci.
The girls had been sleeping there as the state-run dorm had been demolished for expansion, Dogan reported.
Media reports said the Suleymanci accommodation was the only option in the area for the girls’ parents.
The Suleymanci is one of the biggest religious communities in Turkey and is renowned for having a major influence in politics.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) blamed the government for failing to channel enough funds for education accommodation, prompting poor families to resort to dorms run by religious communities.
“Such fires are not the first and will not be the last so long as the government’s policy and irresponsibility remain in place,” it said in a statement.
“It is a shame and crime to condemn our children to uncontrolled dorms and any form of abuse.”