Fears for students after fire at Irish college in Belgium

Two Irish students were still missing this morning as firemen damped down a fire that destroyed the house in which they were living in the University town of Leuven in Belgium.

Eight other students escaped, some onto the roof of the building, and were rescued but authorities said that two others, believed to be Polish and Lithuanian with Irish passports, had not been accounted for.

The fire began at 5am Irish time in the house close to the and reported to be owned by the Irish College.

Houses adjacent were evacuated as eye witnesses say the flames shot up into the sky from the corner house.

Firemen were unable to enter the building and hoped later this morning to carry out a search.

“With the fire now under control, we hope to enter the building and carry out an examination”, said the head of the fire department, Dieter Vanaken.

However, the whole structure has become very unstable with the roof likely to collapse into the building, making the operation much more difficult and dangerous, he explained.

They were still hoping that the two students had not returned to the residence last night and had stayed with friends in the town.

Eyewitnesses report seeing students climbing from the house onto the roof to escape the flames.

Two were helped by local residents with a ladder to escape from the blaze.

The Irish College was founded by the Irish Franciscan’s in 1607 and was one of a series of such colleges where Irish priests were trained.

The Leuven college was given to the Irish state over 30 years ago by the order and recently underwent a major redevelopment and was officially inaugurated by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny last year.

By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent, Irish Examiner



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