Tragedy struck the city of Shakargarh on Monday, when five minor students, all of them girls, were killed while more than 30 others were seriously injured when the roof of their classroom collapsed.
The private school was identified as Chiraghia Gulshan Itfaal School, located at Kollhu Wali Street, Shakargarh, about 77km from Sialkot.
According to senior police officials, it was just like any other routine day at the school, when out of nowhere the wood-made and weak roof of the classroom caved in with a bang. Resultantly, four of the girls were crushed to death on the spot, while over 30 students were seriously wounded. One of the injured girls succumbed to her injuries on the way to Mayo Hospital Lahore.
The dead students, aged between 7 and 10 years, were identified as Mariyam Azam, Khadija Tahir, Laiqa Khursheed and Aysha Baseerat. The fifth victim remained unidentified.
A number of people rushed to the spot following the incident. They, along with police and Rescue 1122 personnel pulled out the bodies from the debris and rescued the injured from underneath the rubble. The wounded were shifted to Shakargarh THQ Civil Hospital for treatment, where the condition of six students was stated to be critical.
Police said that the roof was in a dilapidated condition. They added that the material for the construction of a new residential building next to the school was stored on the roof of the school, which included cement bags, bricks, sand and iron rods. The wooden roof was unable to hold the weight of the material and collapsed.
The news of the tragedy spread like wildfire. An emergency was declared at Shakargarh THQ Hospital to cope with the situation. Local people have announced a two-day mourning period. Police later handed over the bodies to their families following the autopsies. They were laid to rest in their native graveyards. Emotional scenes were witnessed at their funerals, which were attended by hundreds of mourners.
Police claimed to have taken the school owner Hafiz Faisal Rafiq into custody and were interrogating him, but no case was registered against him till the filing of the report. Further investigations were under way.
Zardari condoles with families
President Asif Ali Zardari expressed grief over the death of five students killed by the roof collapse. He directed the authorities concerned to ensure the best medical treatment for the injured. He prayed for the souls of the deceased children.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sahrif has taken serious note of the incident and ordered a thorough inquiry by the district administration.
Expressing grief on the tragedy, he also ordered that the injured be provided with the best medical facilities.
(With additional input from our correspondent in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.