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St. Peter’s School gutted in major fire

 Charred remains of the old structure of St. Peter’s School in the city after the deadly fire in the wee hours of Wednesday. (ST)
Charred remains of the old structure of St. Peter’s School in the city after
the deadly fire in the wee hours of Wednesday. (ST)

SHILLONG: A major fire in the wee hours of Wednesday destroyed the administrative and residential section of the 47 year old St. Peter’s School, a premier education institution in the city. No casualty was reported even though the exact cause of the fire remains unknown.
The fire broke out at around 4 AM and gutted the office records. Exploding gas cylinders intensified the fire; there were sight of books and copies reduced to ashes except for the grotto which miraculously remained unharmed.
Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh, who rushed to the site to assess the situation, said she has directed the East Khasi Hills deputy commissioner to seal the school building and MUDA officers to assess the safety aspects of the school.
She revealed that there was a huge crack on the rear side of the building and said that she cannot take any risk. “It seems the building has extended up to the road nearby   and if anything happens again, I cannot forgive myself.”
Speaking to reporters, Yam Bahadur Gurung, the night chowkidar on duty said, “I was on gate duty and saw flames went up, I immediately rushed and woke everyone up.”
A teacher of the school said, “The Principal of the school is totally shattered and disturbed. There is a huge loss.”
“On Monday, we will call the parents for a meeting and we are awaiting the deputy commissioner’s order to resume classes,” the teacher said.
However, mystery shrouds the disappearance of the School’s principal and vice-principal who remained untraced. All attempts made by the teachers, parents and media persons to reach them ended without success.
It was informed that a four-month-old baby was rescued from fire; however, the news could not be confirmed.
“As of now the school premises cannot be utilized as clearance from the PWD (Building) is awaited after which the deputy commissioner’s office and the Disaster Management Authority will finally decide on whether the partially damaged school building is safe or not for classes to resume,” said on duty Magistrate T.S.R. Marak.
“The most important rooms including the office room and staff room and all the school records have been completely destroyed,” Marak said.
MBOSE officials who were present at the site have assured all assistance to the school and students.
East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner P.S. Dkhar said the cause of fire was uncertain and added that the fire may have started from the kitchen.
Fortunately, the adjoining houses were not affected as the wind blew the fire towards the open ground.
Meanwhile, questions have been raised on the presence of a cache of domestic and commercial gas cylinders on the school premises which intensified the fire leading to extensive damage to the old structure.
After the fire was brought under control rescuers uncovered around 14 gas cylinders from the debris leading to speculation about illegal use of LPG cylinders on the school premises.
It may be reminded that the school management used to run a hostel which was closed down last year.
Security audit of old buildings
Following the deadly fire at St. Peter’s School on Wednesday morning, East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner said that security audit of all old buildings in the city will be carried out.
This is a rigorous attempt on the part of the district administration to check buildings and safety concerns, he said.
He also added that security audits have been carried out at Pine Mount School.

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