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Mary Stuart fire: How students returning from night out saved colleagues from burning to death

Students who escaped from the burning hostel stand outside.

Mark Adit, a resident of Lumumba Hall in Makerere University was in the wee hours of Saturday morning woken up by screaming female students from the neighbouring Mary Stuart Hall.

According to Adit, screams were an alarm by female residents of Mary Stuart, popularly known as Box, who had returned from an evening out and we’re waiting for the Hall to be opened.

“I arrived here at 5:30am, girls who were from outing [sic], saw the fire and started screaming and alerted us in Lumumba,” Admit told PML Daily, adding that at this point he called police whose fire fighting trucks arrived a while later.

“We started doing everything possible to rescue girls on the upper floors because the ground level was covered in smoke and fire,” Adit said.

“We ran to St. Francis and St. Augustine chapels for fire extinguishers because both Mary Stuart and Lumumba have no fire extinguishers in them,” he added.

Mary Stuart is one of the oldest halls at the University. Built in the 1950,s the magnificent structure is seen from as far away on the horizon as one can reach to look in the direction of Makerere. It has a capacity of over 400 students.

The Saturday morning incident, however, has raised a question of safety of the students residing in Box since the Hall has no fire extinguisher and escape routes on it.

One of the destroyed rooms at Mary Stuart Hall after the fire was put out. PHOTOS BY JAVIIRA SSEBWAMI

“I was sleeping and heard people screaming, “fire fire” so I tried to find my way out but there was no escape routes so I had to jump to the ground from the second floor, now see my legs, see my face!” Josephine Achan, a Bachelor of Fine Art students said.

Achan sustained injuries on her knees and face but requested we do not photograph her.

Mr Cyrico Kabagambe the Dean of Students at Makerere University said students in the hall had remained to at the university for their recess term.
He added that administrators are going to sit and determine what to do for them.

Police say 7 trucks were dispatched which managed to put out the fire before it caused more damage than it had.

According to Assistant inspector General of Police –AIGP Joseph Mugisha, the director of Fire department, the fire started at around 5:30am in one of the small canteens at Mary Stuart Hall.

He adds that the fire would have spread to the entire building but thanks to intervention from residents in the neighbouring Lumumba and the timely response of the fire brigade, who worked hard to contain the fire to the ground floor.

“This is a storied building and if fire had been given chance to spread upward, this building would be no more and we could have had fatalities, but the fire fighting and rescue team that came in here did a commendable job,” he told PML Daily at the scene.

AIGP Mugisha said property on the ground including all canteens, photocopiers and chairs were all destroyed but everything on the upper levels were saved.

“Whatever was on the upper floor was saved, we have saved this important building, its structural integrity has remained and it is a matter of doing renovation, no lives lost, only three female students sustained minor injuries as they were escaping,” he added.

A statement by the Makerere University guild security minister, Mr Godwin Kweyamba, the injured students are one only identified as Charity, a law student, Rosette Kyonkuzire a medicine student and Nansubuga Evelyn, BLT1, whose leg broke.

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