A telegram was sent in the Holy Father’s name expressing his condolences for the victims of the fire that took the lives of 90 children and severely injured 20 more in Kumbakonam, southern India last friday.
“The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the devastating school fire in Kumbakonam which has taken the lives of so many young children and has left so many others injured,” read the telegram. “He assures all involved in this terrible tragedy of his closeness in prayer. His Holiness commends the dead to the loving mercy of Almighty God, and upon their grieving families and those who have suffered harm he invokes the divine blessings of consolation, strength and healing.”
Last Friday, Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls stated that the Pope was “deeply saddened and moved after being informed of the fire.” “He immediately collected himself in prayer,” the spokesman said.
Officials said about 700 children in the school at the time had managed to escape. Angry residents and relatives turned on the teachers at the school, accusing them of having left the building and leaving some of their charges behind.
The blaze began in a kitchen where lunch was being cooked, and then spread to the school's palm-thatched roof. Many children were trapped in a large classroom with just one exit, and died after the blazing roof collapsed on top of them to block their way out. Others were suffocated and died as they tried to run down narrow staircases.