Death toll rises in Haitian school collapse

Saturday, November 8, 2008

At least 82 people have died after a school collapsed in Haiti on Friday. The death toll rose from 61 to 82 after rescue workers found 20 students and their teacher between two floors of the school. At least 200 more are feared trapped and over 100 have been injured, some seriously.

"This morning we found a classroom with 21 inside — students and their professor — and they are all dead," said Rene Preval, the president of Haiti during a press conference on site of the disaster.

Reports say that the third floor of the College La Promesse Evangelique in Pétionville was under construction when the collapse happened, but it is not known if that was the cause. Pétionville is a suburb of Port-au-Prince. The collapse occurred at 10:00 a.m. local time on Friday while school was in session.

At least 700 children were attending the school when it collapsed, ranging from kindergarten to secondary grades, with the students' ages ranging from 3 to 20 years old.

The school is reported to have partially collapsed eight years ago, and residents living near it moved in fear that the rest of it would collapse on their homes. After the first collapse, the owner of the school attempted to buy the homes and properties surrounding the school.

Witnesses and residents fear that the school was improperly repaired after the first collapse. Police are investigating the two incidents to determine if criminal charges will be filed. One member of the Haitian parliament also called the repaired building "not quite solid", suggesting that there were too many people inside the building, putting it over capacity.