Two Irish students killed in Belgian fire

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Two Irish students died on Friday after a fierce fire tore through their residence in the Belgian university town of Leuven, officials said.

The blaze, the cause of which was not known, broke out at around 6am (1pm Singapore time) in a two-storey student house, the Belga news agency quoted police as saying.

Ms Dace Zarina, 22, and Ms Sara Gibadlo, 19, were both killed in the fire, said the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, where they were students in hotel and catering management.

Two other students escaped from the blazing building while firefighters rescued another six from the residence, officials said.

The bodies of the two women, who were on an Erasmus course at the Leuven Institute for Ireland, were recovered later from the house.

Ms Zarina's family were originally from Latvia and Gibadlo's from Poland but they were both Irish nationals, the institute said.

"Dace and Sara were very talented young students. They were both bright, creative young girls. It's a huge loss," said Ms Cait Noone, head of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology's College of Tourism and Arts.

The Irish ambassador has visited the scene and been to see the injured in hospital, a spokesman for Ireland's foreign ministry said.

Leuven mayor Louis Tobback said the house had not been declared as a student residence and its owner was not paying tax, meaning it had not been given safety checks by firefighters.

Mr Rik Gosselink, the vice-rector of Leuven University, said the house was owned by the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe.

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