Saturday, August 2, 2008
Reuters reports the initial death toll at sixteen, with 27 injured. The number of deaths later rose to 17 when a body was removed from the rubble. Two survivors were pulled from the rubble as rescuers worked into the night. One girl is still missing.
“We won’t stop until we find her,” village mayor Mehmet Demirgul, told the Associated Press.
About fifty students and teachers were in the school, where some had gathered on for Islamic study in the three-story structure in the village of Balcilar, near Taskent in the Konya province .
Merve Avci, a 13-year-old, slightly injured student spoke to the Anatolian news agency: “I was in the part of the building which didn’t collapse with five of my friends immediately after the explosion, and we felt flames rising from the downstairs to upper floors.”
Anatolian says that Avci was in the process of washing before pre-dawn prayers, when a noise in the building’s kitchen led Avci and some teacher to investigate. She says she saw a loose gas pipe before being ordered back to her room. She says she smelled gas coming from somewhere above her room before the explosion.
“We think the collapse was caused by a gas canister explosion in the building, given the burns on the injured,” Konya province health service official Galip Sef told Reuters.
Mayor Demirgul said a leak in a pipe carrying liquefied petroleum gas is the probable cause of the pre-dawn blast.
“We are hearing voices. I believe those inside the rubble will be saved,” Demirgul told reporters, according to the Associated Press and Reuters.
The Associated Press reports that a small portion of all three stories of the building were left standing. This is confirmed by images displayed on the Reuters website.
The building is owned by a religion foundation and is under investigation when Turkish authorities found an non-approved annex to the structure, according to AFP.
The explosion is unrelated to the bomb blast in northern Turkey on July 28.