- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2013

The headmistress of the school in India where 22 students between the ages of 5 and 12 were killed from eating free lunches tainted with insecticide has gone missing, authorities said Thursday.

A police chief in the northeastern region of Bihar said police are scouring for the principal and her husband, hoping to question her about the poisonings that occurred earlier this week.

Students given free lunches at the school — potatoes, rice, lentils — began to vomit and faint shortly after taking their first bites on Tuesday, CNN reported. Twenty-two ultimately died. Another 25 are still in the hospital, some in critical condition.

“The information which has come to me indeed suggests that the headmistress was told by the cook that medium of cooking was not proper, and she suspected the quality of the oil,” Bihar state education minister P.K. Shahi said, CNN reported. “But the headmistress rebuked her, and chastised the children, and forced them to continue the meal.”

The cook — who is one of the patients in the hospital, recovering from the poisoning — told CNN that statement wasn’t true. Police want to question the headmistress to clarify.

The free lunch program is overseen by the Indian government, in partnership with various state governments. Earlier reports said the children who died in the incident were between the ages of 8 and 11. But CNN reported on Thursday they were aged 5 to 12.

It’s still not clear whether the pesticide found in the food came by way of intentional or accidental action. Officials think the chemical is one that’s common to farming, called organophosphorus — a nerve agent that’s related to sarin gas, CNN reported.



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