Eighteen school girls, ages 5 to 12, were charred beyond recognition in a blaze that gutted down Pitakiatwittaya Christian School in the Chiang Rai Province north of Thailand last Sunday.
38 children were sleeping in the school dormitory when the fire broke out. Responding firefighters could not do much after arriving on site, and rescued only 20 children as the blaze had already engulfed the building when they arrived.
"It is still very chaotic here. We are still in the process of identifying the bodies," Rewat Wassana, the school manager, said.
There could have been more fatalities had it not been for the 11-year-old girl who noticed the fire when she woke up to go to the bathroom. She ran back and alerted her friends in other rooms, but they did not believe her and went back to bed.
"We have assigned a teacher to accompany the children, but she was not able to save all of them although she tried," Rewat said.
Chief of the Chiang Rai fire unit, Sawang Momdee said they tried to pull everybody out, but the fire spread very fast.
The school is about 500 miles north of Bangkok and offers pre-elementary to sixth-grade education free of charge. Most of the students are from low-income families of the surrounding villages.