DNA tests needed to identify Thai school fire victims

AP News
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Posted: May 24, 2016 11:05 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Relatives of a dozen primary-school girls who died in a dormitory fire in northern Thailand are awaiting the results of DNA tests because the bodies of all but five of the 17 victims are too disfigured to be recognizable.

"I can't even tell which one is my daughter, they all just look like blackened dolls," Yupin Saewa, the mother of a 10-year-old victim, said in an interview Tuesday with the state Thai News Agency.

The Pithakkaiat Witthaya school outside Chiang Rai city provides free housing for impoverished children who are members of hill tribe minorities.

Fifteen girls and a teacher escaped the fire Sunday night by tying bedsheets together and using them to climb down from a second-floor window. Five others were rescued by emergency responders who found them unconscious in their beds, overcome by smoke.

"Right now, all of the survivors have gone home with their families," said Jakkrich Promrueangrit, an emergency responder. "The bodies, though, are still awaiting DNA analysis because their faces are unrecognizable."

Some grieving relatives made offerings of food and drink on the front steps of the dormitory to honor the dead.

Initial reports said 18 girls died. The fire's cause is under investigation. News reports cited police as saying the fire could have been caused by a fluorescent light that malfunctioned.