19 KILLED IN TUVALU SCHOOL FIRE

FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu (March 9, 2000 - An investigation has been launched into a school fire in which 18 girls and a matron were killed.

The fire broke out in a secondary school residential hostel on the island of Vaitupu.

Thirty-six students and a matron were sleeping in the hostel at the time of the blaze.

Tuvalu Government spokesman Saufatu Sopoaga said 18 female students managed to escape the flames by smashing down a door, but he said the other girls and the woman were trapped inside:

"A very serious tragedy has happened in the only secondary school of Tuvalu.

"Now this secondary school is a boarding school and it's a mixed boarding school, girls and boys.

"Communities are now mourning the death of the 18 girls," he said.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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