Guyana fire: At least 19 children killed in school dormitory blaze

Most of the fire victims at Mahdia Secondary School were girls

BySandi Sidhu, Xiaofei Xu, Rob Picheta and Sahar Akbarzai, CNN, CNNWire
Monday, May 22, 2023
At least 19 children killed in fatal school dormitory fire in Guyana
Most of the fire victims at Mahdia Secondary school were girls.

MAHDIA, Guyana -- At least 19 of the 20 people who died in a "horrific" school dormitory fire were children, officials said on Monday, after a blaze tore through the building in the Caribbean country of Guyana, CNN reported.

Fourteen children died at the scene, Department of Public Information (DPI) said in a statement, while five died at the Mahdia District Hospital, according to a statement from Guyana's Fire Service.

Seven others were critically injured and "numerous others hospitalized and injured," it added.

The fire broke out about 10:50 p.m. Sunday in the dormitory building of a secondary school in the southwestern border town of Mahdia, a gold and diamond mining community about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of the capital, Georgetown, the government said in a statement.

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"It is with great sadness that we bring to you a heart-wrenching update on the fire at the dormitory at the Mahdia Secondary school" in central Guyana, an earlier DPI statement said. "We have lost many beautiful souls in that fire."

The Guyana Fire Service said when they arrived at the dormitory, the building was already engulfed in flames "completely," according to a statement. Investigations are ongoing into what started the blaze.

"Firefighters did manage to rescue some 20 students by breaking holes in the north-eastern wall of the building," the Fire Service explained. "Our team is still on the ground investigating as we seek to provide clarity regarding how the fire started and all other necessary information."

The Mahdia Secondary School Dormitory, where the fire happened, is at the center of the Guyanese government's push to improve the education level in the less developed part of the country. lt mostly served indigenous children, although authorities couldn't immediately confirm if any of the children who were killed were from indigenous communities.

Guyana's President Mohamed Ifran Ali said the students hailed from not only Mahdia but the villages of Campbelltown, Micobie, El Paso, and several other villages in the North Pakaraimas.

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

The Guyanese government earlier mobilized a "full-scale medical evacuation-supported response" after the fire broke out.

In an initial statement, the government said the "Cabinet is being briefed and kept updated on a horrific fire at the dormitory in Mahdia." Bad weather had complicated the early response, the statement added.

Authorities are attempting to locate some of the victims' parents, Ali said. "This is a major disaster. This is horrific, it's painful. And many responses have to occur at the same time. So, we're putting all of that in place," Ali said at a press conference on Monday morning.

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

ABC News contributed to this report.

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