14 children killed in crush at Kenya primary school

Police investigate causes of tragedy in Kakamega amid reports that pupils fell from third floor as they ran downstairs at home time.

Parents and teachers gather at Kakamega primary school after the tragedy in which 14 children died. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

At least 14 children have died and dozens of others have been injured in a crush at a primary school in Kenya, officials said.

The police have launched an inquiry into what caused the crowd of students to panic as they were leaving the school in the western town of Kakamega to go home at around 5pm local time on Monday.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the police cordoned off the school and took statements from the teaching staff.

Images broadcast by local media showed parents gathered in front of the emergency ward of a hospital in the town, waiting for news of their children.

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Education minister George Magoha told Citizen TV that 14 children, believed to be mostly in grade five, aged between 10 and 12, had died. “One life (lost) is a life too many,” he said.

ne of the children’s mothers blamed the teachers.

“Those who survived said they were running because there were teachers who were beating them, and that is why they were escaping and fell on each other,” the mother said in an interview with local media.

Corporal punishment is banned in Kenya.

The Daily Nation newspaper said that some of the children fell from the third floor of the school building as they ran.

“As kids were going home from school there was a stampede as they were going down the stairs,” said Peter Abwao, a spokesman for Red Cross Kenya. “It’s a three-storey building, it’s a classroom block.”

The Kakamega primary school did not immediately comment on the incident.

“We are devastated by the tragedy that has hit Kakamega primary school this evening,” said Kenyas vice president William Ruto in a post on Twitter.

“Our prayers, love and thoughts to the families and relatives of the victims of the misfortune.”

Red Cross said that it was setting up psychological support services, as well as a “tracing desk” to help relatives locate potentially affected students.

The Red Cross said 39 students had been admitted to hospital.

St John’s Ambulance said at least 14 students had been killed and more than 50 injured, including two who were in an intensive care unit. Some 37 had been treated and discharged from hospital.

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The tragedy comes two days after 20 people were killed in a crush at an open-air evangelical Christian church service over the border in Tanzania.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report.

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