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Six Elderly Nuns Killed In Fire

June 2, 1986 GMT

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ A pre-dawn fire raced through a convent building in central Dublin today, killing six Roman Catholic nuns who found themselves trapped after being awakened by a ″blazing inferno,″ a witness said. Fifteen nuns escaped unharmed.

The victims, ranging in age from 60 to 83, were asleep in a dormitory on the top floor of the four-story Loreto Secondary School when the fire broke out, said Sister Patricia Murray, a senior staff nun.

″It all happened very quickly and the building was well alight before most of the sisters were awakened,″ said Sister Patricia. ″Most of them woke up to the sound of breaking glass. In a few minutes the building had collapsed.″

Three nuns escaped from the dormitory, she said, adding that ″when they looked back it was a blazing inferno.

″The sisters who died were moving toward the exits at the time, but they did not make it,″ said Sister Patricia. ″The floor of the stairs must have collapsed beneath them.″

The convent overlooks St. Stephen’s Green, a fashionable Dublin square surrounded by several government ministries and one of the city’s top hotels, the Shelbourne.

A passing policeman spotted the blaze at 3:30 a.m., police said. It took eight fire companies more than two hour to bring it under control, said Dublin police spokesman Larry Coady.

The cause of the blaze was not known.

The fire gutted the convent building which contained a concert hall, a science laboratory and the top-floor dormitory.

Twelve nuns escaped unharmed from a dormitory in an adjacent building. Classrooms in that building were slightly damaged.

″A nun came running to me in her dressing gown, said there was a fire and asked me to call the brigade,″ said Derek Walsh, a passer-by.

He said he saw the science laboratory completely ablaze.

″I went to another part of the building to help some of the more elderly nuns get out and we gave them blankets to keep them warm,″ Walsh said.

The nuns killed in the blaze were identified by police as Sister Rosario Flavin, 65; Sister Margaret Keane, 60; Sister Edith Kennedy, 68; Sister Gonzaga Kehoe, 81; Sister Seraphia Kennedy, 76; and Sister Eucharia Scully, 83.

The nuns belonged to the Loreto Order. Their school, a 153-year-old institution, has 650 day students.