The disaster occurred at about 1:00 am at the Salama School for the Blind

Kampala (AFP) - Eleven people, mostly children, have perished in a blaze that tore through a dormitory at a school for the blind in Uganda in the early hours of Tuesday as pupils were sleeping.

“The cause of the fire is currently unknown but so far 11 deaths as a result of the fire have been confirmed while six are in critical conditions and admitted (to hospital),” the Uganda Police Force said on Twitter.

The disaster occurred at about 1 am (2200 GMT Monday) at the Salama School for the Blind in the Mukono district, east of the capital Kampala.

Police said an investigation had been launched into the cause of the inferno and more details would be released later.

“Most of the dead are children at the school and our sympathies go to the parents,” Internal Affairs Minister General Kahinda Otafiire told AFP.

He said the school has been cordoned off as a “crime scene” and vowed that there would be a full investigation.

“As government we shall go to the root cause of the fire and if there are any culprits they will be apprehended and the law will take its course,” he added.

The school’s headmaster Francis Kirube, who is also blind, told AFP the flames swept through the dormitory as the pupils slept.

Map of Uganda locating Mukono, where a deadly fire broke out at a school for the blind

AFP images showed a charred but still largely intact building where the fire broke out, its window frames and door blackened and the corrugated roof damaged.

Forensic teams were seen in white protective gear at the school, while grieving parents gathered nearby.

- ‘He is gone’ -

Richard Muhimba, the distraught father of one of the dead children, told AFP: “No words can explain the pain I am going through.

“I visited my child on Saturday, he was in good health and in less than three days he is gone… Please give me time to go through this pain,” said Muhimba, before hanging up.

A friend told AFP that the child was aged 15 and that Muhimba was a father of five.

Salama was built in April 1999 by the local government in Mukono and caters for children and young adults between the ages of six to 25.

The school had opened in 1999

Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles III, had been due to visit the school during her trip this week to Uganda, which marked its 60th anniversary of independence from Britain earlier this month.

The East African nation has suffered a string of deadly school fires in recent years.

In November 2018, 11 boys perished and another 20 suffered severe burns in a suspected arson attack at a boarding school in southern Uganda.

In April 2008, 18 schoolgirls burned to death along with one adult when a fire engulfed their dormitory at a junior school near the Ugandan capital.

In March 2006, at least 13 children were killed and several hurt when fire razed an Islamic school in western Uganda. In July the same year, six children died in a similar fire in the east.