Fire Rips Through Education Ministry Warehouse, Destroys School Materials

Firefighters continued Saturday morning to move debris in a warehouse owned by the Ministry of Education, putting out the final embers of a fire that ripped through the building two days earlier. The fire destroyed approximately 280 million soles ($105 million) worth of educational materials, newspaper El Comercio reported.

Education Minister Patricia Salas said that 500,000 school texts, 40,000 computers, 21,000 notebooks and 6,000 solar panels were destroyed in the fire. The warehouse was located in the industrial area of Breña, near downtown Lima.

Five firefighters sustained light injuries and neighbours suffered respiratory complaints from the heavy smoke, but there were no serious injuries.  The first nine hours required 11 fire companies to bring the fire under control, and by Saturday the fire department had reduced the work to that of three companies.

Salas said the texts were for Peru’s public primary schools, while the texts for high-schools were recently printed and being stored at a separate warehouse. The materials destroyed were to be transported to schools in Loreto, Ucayali and Madre de Dios regions.

“I am absolutely furious for what happened, I hope this gets cleared up,” Salas said. “We aren’t going to be able to provide children with their books and materials… everything is gone. It puts at risk the way we want to start the school year.”

President Ollanta Humala, in the northern town of Huaral on Friday to visit a school lunch program, said his government will ensure that the fire will not affect the government’s ability to provide materials to schools. “We are going to resolve this problem,” he said.

Peru’s school season begins in March, following the end of the country’s two-month Summer holiday. Heavy rains had delayed authorities from shipping the texts to schools outside Lima.

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