A panic provoked by a false alarm that a Yaounde school was about to collapse left 34 people dead Monday and at least 50 injured, an official at the U.S. Embassy said.

Cameroon authorities were trying to determine what started the panic at the Institut Jean Monthe, a private secondary school located in a marshy area in the heart of the West African capital, said Gemuh Akuchu, a spokesman for the embassy.About 10,000 students between the ages of 12 and 16 attend the school.

According to first reports from the scene, a confrontation about 9:30 a.m. between a student and teacher on the ground floor provoked a wave of shouting by students that was interpreted by others upstairs as a warning that the old building was about to collapse.