12 killed, 24 wounded in dormitory fire in Turkey’s Adana
ADANAA total of 12 people, mostly children, were killed and another 24 were wounded late on Nov. 29 when a fire broke out at a private girls’ dormitory in the Aladağ district of the southern province of Adana.
The fire broke out around 7:30 p.m. and instantly surrounded the building, which belongs to the Tahsil Çağındaki Talebelere Yardım Derneği (Aid Association to Education-age Students).
Firefighters were only managed to extinguish the fire three hours later.
The bodies of 10 students, including one child and educator identified as Fatma Canatan, were pulled from the three-story building, while another 24 students who were exposed to smoke and jumped from the windows to escape were taken to hospital.
The lifeless bodies of eight students were found in the attic of the building, while the bodies of other three students and Canatan were found on the second floor.
Sare Betül Genç, the four-year-old daughter of the dormitory manager, was also killed in the fire.
Seven of those killed were identified following DNA tests, while the autopsy proceedings to identify the other five are ongoing.
Adana Governor Mahmut Demirtaş had earlier announced that a total of 34 students were staying at the private secondary school dormitory.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, though Adana Firefighter Unit Department Head Fatih Durukan said initial examinations indicated that it might have been caused by a loose electric contact.
Aladağ Mayor Mustafa Alpgedik said the fire broke out on the ground floor before rising to the third floor, which was mostly wooden. The roof of the building completely collapsed after the fire spread to the third floor.
The Kozan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has announced that arrest warrants had been issued for a total of 14 people, including dormitory personnel and managers of the dormitory association, as a part of the investigation into the incident. Three chief public prosecutors were assigned to investigate the fire, it said.
Police in Adana detained six people, including dormitory manager Cumali Genç, educators and dormitory personnel as part of the investigation.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s media watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), announced a gag order on reporting the fire, following a decision of the Aladağ criminal court of peace, until the investigation is complete.
Earlier on Nov. 29, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Governor Demirtaş after the fire to get an update on the situation, according to presidential sources.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım was also briefed by the governor and related ministers who arrived at the scene.
Demirtaş also briefed Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman on the incident, as the latter expressed his condolences in a phone conversation.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara extended its condolences to the relatives of the victims in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya and Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez headed to the district to make examinations at the scene and visit the wounded in hospitals.
Mehmet Karataş, the father of one of victims Cennet Karataş, said it was his daughter’s first year at the dormitory, adding that he had no choice other than to send his daughter to the dormitory because it was the only girls’ dormitory in the district.
Another local in the district told the Doğan News Agency that the authorities had demolished a previous dormitory in the district and settled the children there in a different private girls’ dormitory.
Opposition condemns Adana dormitory fire negligence
Opposition figures have also condemned lax safety monitoring that led to the deadly fire.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the government for not implementing necessary safety measures in dormitories, amid claims of locked fire escape doors at the dormitory.
“When you look at the dormitory, you realize that there was a fire escape but all of our children who died there were just in front of that door. They couldn’t open it because it was locked,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
“This is despite the fact there are possible technological solutions. There are doors that cannot be opened from outside but can be opened from inside. Why are they not using those doors? Why were precautions not taken? Why was that approved?” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak claimed on Nov. 30 that there was in fact no lock on the fire escape door, quoting the prosecutor’s initial examinations.
Kaynak also said the dormitory had been authorized by the Education Ministry and inspected twice a year, with the last inspection conducted in June.
Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya said a “meticulous” investigation was underway to reveal whether the door of the fire escape was locked, vowing that anyone found to have been negligent in the incident would be punished.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli said in a written statement that the cause of the fire should be immediately revealed, urging the government to find and punish those responsible for the fire by failing to guarantee the dormitory’s safety.
Bahçeli recalled that it was the government’s principal duty to claim responsibility and protect future generations.
Dormitory fires are not uncommon in Turkey. Back in 2008, an explosion triggered by a gas leak in a religious preparatory school in the Central Anatolian province of Konya claimed the lives of 18 girls and wounded another 29. Charges were brought against the dormitory manager as well as other officials but the case is still ongoing.
Six students were killed in a fire in a Qoran school in Diyarbakır on Nov 30, 2015.