At least 17 girls died in the night after a fire swept through a school dormitory in northern Thailand, a police commander said, adding several others were either missing or injured.
“The fire broke out at 11pm on Sunday (local time, 1600 GMT). Seventeen girls were killed and two are still missing, with five injured,” Police Colonel Prayad Singsin, Commander of Vingpatao district in Chiang Rai said.
Two of the injured are in a serious condition, he added.
The school, which belongs to a local foundation and is not government run, is home to girls aged from three to 13 years old, he said.
A second police officer from the same precinct said the school is home to pupils from impoverished local hill tribes in the mountainous area.
“The fire is out, but the cause of the blaze is still under investigation,” Prayad said, adding forensic officers were due to arrive on Monday.
Photographs on the school’s Facebook page showed firefighters struggling to douse the flames as they engulfed the white, two-storey building.
Hill tribes are often beyond the reach of state resources, suffering at school as well as in their health and development.
Poverty means some resort to drug smuggling for narcotics gangs across the remote area, known as the “Golden Triangle” and bordering Laos and Myanmar.
Thailand has poor health and safety standards and accidents are common across the kingdom.