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Guyana: School girl started deadly fire

May 24, 2023

CMC – Police in Guyana say they will send a file to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) on Wednesday after indicating that the deadly fire at the dormitory at a secondary school that resulted in 19 students being killed had been started by a female student.

The school housed female students from Mahdia, Campbelltown, Micobie, El Paso and several other villages in the North Pakaraimas in Region 8.

“Several of the students were interviewed in the presence of a Probation Officer, and statements were taken. The scene is presently secured and guarded by ranks as investigations continue,” the police said in a statement, adding “the Police file will be sent to the DPP tomorrow morning (Wednesday)”.

In the statement the police said that the investigations so far into the fire that swept through the dormitory at the Mahdia Secondary School 100 miles south-west of Georgetown during the early hours of Monday “reveal that a female student is suspected of having set the devastating fire because her cellular phone was taken away by the Dorm’s mother and a teacher”.

The statement said that at the time of the fire, there were 57 female students in the one-flat concrete building measuring about 100 feet by 40 feet, with several windows, all grilled, and with five doors.

”According to the female students, they were asleep and were awakened by screams. Upon checking, they saw fire/smoke in the bathroom area, which quickly spread in the building, causing several students to receive burns to their bodies and smoke inhalation, whilst several managed to escape.

”The injured students were taken to the Mahdia District Hospital, seen, examined and admitted patients by doctors. At the hospital, five  of the female students were pronounced dead.”

The police said that a search was carried out in the building, which was completely destroyed by the fire, and 14 burnt remains of human beings were found.

The statement said that the government’s pathologist, Dr Nehaul Singh performed post-mortem examinations on Monday with dissections on six of the bodies and that the “cause of death was given as smoke inhalation and burns, respectively”.

The police said that the bodies were identified by relatives and handed over to them for burials. They said 13 of the burnt bodies were taken to Georgetown and are presently at the Memorial Gardens Funeral Home for storage and DNA purposes.

The police added that 17 students who were taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) for medical treatment “are in stable/critical condition,” while 11 others who were taken to the Mahdia District Hospital are also in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, President Dr. Irfaan Ali said DNA samples from the bodies of the unidentified victims will be sent to the Mount Sinai laboratory in New York and test results will be back here on Friday.

The team is in the process of collecting all samples from the remains and from the parents after which those samples will be packaged and transferred sometime tomorrow to Mount Sinai.

“They will be flown to Mount Sinai labs in New York because this lab provides the shortest return time in terms of the results,” the President said during a live update on Tuesday.

Ali said Cuba, the Caribbean and the United States (US) have offered to assist Guyana with the treatment of a number of schoolgirls who were severely burnt by fire.

“We cannot also not remember the generous offer of Cuba yesterday (Monday) to give us full medical support in and out of Guyana and to be a host country for any medical needs in Cuba,” he said, announcing that the first funeral for those killed will be held on Thursday. He identified the victim as Sabrina John, who will be laid to rest in her home village of Karisparu, Region Eight.

“I continue to pray to that the mercy, love, patience of God be with all these families and be with us as a nation,” Ali said, adding that a flower-laying ceremony will also be held at the Mahdia hostel on Wednesday.

Ali said the ceremony will be attended by foreign diplomats based here and that the country’s Flag raising ceremony which had been scheduled for Thursday night as part of the Independence celebrations, will now be converted into a night of prayer and remembrance for the children who perished in the fire.

“This independence will now be dedicated through prayer and remembrance to these our beautiful children of Guyana,” President Ali said.

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