Liberia: ‘We Were Helpless,’ Female Students Narrate Fire Ordeal At Cuttington University


Suacoco, Bong County – More than 60 female students of Cuttington University in Suacoco, Bong County, have lost their personal belongings including schooling materials after fire destroyed their dormitory on Friday.

Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]

The fire, according to the university’s communications director, Kweshie Tetteh, started from room nine in Rally Hall, the girls dorm, before spreading to the entire dormitory.

Tetteh added that attempts to put out the fire failed.

“It’s unfortunate that the students could not save most of their properties,” Tetteh said.

‘We were helpless’

Beatrice McGill, a first-year student, said students were attracted by screams after smoke was detected in the dorm. And they couldn’t anything as the fire quickly intensified.

“We looked on as the fire destroyed our properties,” she said.

Theresa Peabody, another first-year student, recalled that she inhaled smoke while she was in the dorm but thought there was a pile of rubbish burning nearby.

The 26-year-old said once she and some of her colleagues realized what was happening, they tried to douse the fire with the help of several neighbors – but it was too big.

Cuttington University’s communications director, Kweshie Tetteh

“The fire had destroyed our clothes, mattresses and other important materials. When we failed to put off the fire, we ran outside to save our lives,” she said.

“We saw something sparkling and then a huge fire broke out,” one of the students who did not want to be identified said, adding that by that time she had already retired in her bed to sleep.

“We started screaming while others rushed to the room where the fire began,” she narrated of what she termed as a devastating ordeal.

 “I am traumatized,” said another student. “I was studying when I heard people screaming. I thought they were watching a horror movie or something really exciting. But when we walked out with my friend, I saw people running helter-skelter; some people fell while other fainted.”

She’s still unsure of what was happening. “My friend thought our colleagues had seen a wild dog,” she recounted.

But as they continued running, unaware of the reason, “we saw huge smoke coming out from the dormitory. I panicked.” She continued; “after the fire incident, I am afraid.”

Parents Were Worried

For a parent, only identified as David, he found more than 10 missed calls from his daughter.

“I knew something was wrong,” he said.

Upon calling, he was asked, “Is your daughter okay?”

The father of two was now worried when he received the call and sought to know the exact daughter since his two children are girls.

“I was shocked. I did not know what to do…I gathered courage and drove on campus. I am glad that my girl is safe,” he said.

Christian Jones, a father of one of the students who was in the dorm when the fire started, said he had to rush on the campus to find out whether his daughter was safe.

“I am glad that my daughter is well,” he said later.

Administration regrets fire incident

The administration of the university says it regrets the fire incident that occurred on Friday, March 1, 2017.

The administration, according to Tetteh, is working with the Liberia National Police to initiate an investigation into the exact cause of the incident.

Tetteh said reports from residents indicate that the fire started from room nine of Rally Hall dorm where an electrical stove was left on unattended.

Tetteh said the administration is aware of the distress the incident has caused especially to the student body, and is intervening to ease the loss and discomfort of those deeply affected. Tetteh however said classes will begin of Monday, March 4. The administration, Tetteh added, wants to assure the sponsors and parents of its “duty of care to its students.”