HomeBreaking NewsGuyana school dormitory fire that killed 19 children was 'maliciously set', authorities...

Guyana school dormitory fire that killed 19 children was ‘maliciously set’, authorities say | CNN


At least 19 children have died in a “horrific” fire at a school dormitory in Guyana, which has shocked the nation and prompted its president to declare three days of national mourning.

The fire that engulfed the Mahdia Secondary School girls’ dormitory killed 18 girls and one boy, according to Guyana’s Department of Public Information (DPI), revising downward its previous death toll of 20.

Thirteen girls and a young boy died in the dormitories and another five in the hospital, the Department of Public Information said.

Both police and fire officials say the fire was “maliciously set.” At the time of the fire, 56 children were reportedly staying in a dormitory, a concrete and wood structure with five doors and barred windows, a police spokesman said during a news conference.

“Initial investigation suggests, as reported by the fire department, that (the fire) was started maliciously. Our investigation is continuing and testing will be done expeditiously on the remaining bodies,” the spokesperson said.

DPI did not report the total number of injuries from the fire, but reported that “of those injured, six children were taken to Georgetown in the early hours of the morning, while 17 are at Mahdia Hospital.”

Authorities were first alerted to the fire at 10:15 p.m. local time on Sunday, according to the police spokesman.

“The point of origin was identified as the southwest end of the building. After we completed our initial investigation, the scene was handed over to the Mahdia police,” a spokesman for the fire department said at the same news conference on Monday.

National Communications Network

Videos broadcast by the Guyana Public Broadcasting National Communications Network appear to show the fire.

When firefighters arrived at the dormitory, the building was already “completely” engulfed in flames, according to an earlier statement. Firefighters rescued about 20 students by “punching holes in the northeast wall of the building.”

It took firefighters more than three hours to bring the blaze under control.

The Mahdia High School dormitory, where the fire occurred, is at the center of the Guyana government’s push to improve education standards in the less-developed part of the country. It mostly cared for indigenous children, although authorities could not immediately confirm if any of the children killed belonged to indigenous communities.

The Association of Amerindian Peoples (APA) said they were “heartbroken” by the news of the fire in a statement, adding that “it is important to note that while the secondary school is located in the municipality of Mahdia, It also housed indigenous students.” communities of the wider area.

“The dormitory was accommodation for students from villages outside of Mahdia and so far, victims from the indigenous communities of Micobie, Chenapou and Karisparu have been identified,” the statement said.

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Guyana’s President Mohamed Ifran Ali said earlier that the students came not only from Mahdia, but also from the villages of Campbelltown, Micobie, El Paso and several other villages in northern Pakaraimas.

Children who require immediate medical attention will receive it, according to a statement from Guyana’s president. and medical and psychological assistance will be provided to all other people who remain injured and traumatized.

The Guyana government earlier mobilized a “large-scale medical evacuation-backed response” after the fire broke out.

In an initial statement, the government said that “the Cabinet is being briefed and updated on a horrific fire in Mahdia’s bedroom.” Bad weather had complicated early response, the statement added.

Authorities are trying to locate some of the victims’ parents, Ali said. “This is a big disaster. This is horrible, it’s painful. And many responses have to occur at the same time. So, we are putting all of that in place,” Ali said at a news conference on Monday morning.

National Communications Network

The school was heavily damaged after the fire, footage shows.

Ali, along with other ministers, had visited students and families on Monday, according to a press release.

He also declared three days of national mourning in response to the deadly fire, DPI said, when the national flag will fly “at half-mast in all public buildings in honor of the children who lost their lives,” Ali said.

“I ask that as a nation we use the next three days as three days of prayer for these children, their families and the community,” Ali said according to DPI.

Guyana is a multi-ethnic, English-speaking country, where Amerindians make up 11% of the country’s population, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Indo-Guyanese are 40% of the population, followed by Afro-Guyanese, those who are ethnically mixed (20%) and Amerindians, it added.

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