A fire engulfed the dormitory of a boarding school in Guyana early Monday, killing at least 19 students and injuring several more at the facility, which serves remote, mostly indigenous villages, authorities said.
“This is a horrific incident. It is tragic, it is painful,” President Irfaan Ali said, adding that his government is mobilizing resources to help children.
The fire broke out just before midnight at a high school residential building in the town of Madhia, a gold and diamond mining community about 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of Guyana’s capital Georgetown, it said. the government in a statement.
DEAD AND WOUNDED
Authorities initially indicated that 20 students had been killed, but later updated the figure to 19, with several injured. National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia said the figure was revised after doctors revived a patient who was in such serious condition that “everyone thought he was dead.”
“When the firefighters arrived on the scene, the building was already completely engulfed in flames,” the Guyana Fire Service said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of those young souls.”
The fire brigade added that 14 students died at the scene and another five at a local hospital. Authorities revealed that two children remain in critical condition and four suffer serious injuries. Six students have been transferred to Georgetown for treatment and another five remain in a hospital in Mahdia, while another 10 are under observation.
20 STUDENTS RESCUED
“Firefighters managed to rescue about 20 students by drilling holes in the northeast wall of the building,” according to the fire department. “Our team is continuing to investigate at the scene in order to clarify how the fire broke out and other necessary information.”
The school primarily instructs indigenous children between the ages of 12 and 18, Gouveia said. It was too soon to speculate on the cause of the incident, she said, adding that storms in the area prevented airborne work.
“It was a battle for us,” he said. “The pilots were very brave, they were very determined.”
A BIG EFFORT
He added that the government and rescue teams “made a gigantic effort” to save as many people as possible.
Ali stated that the authorities are contacting the parents and mobilizing psychologists to help those affected.
“I can’t imagine the pain the parents are going through right now,” she said. “This is a major disaster.”
The local newspaper Stabroek News reported that the fire had started in a girls’ dormitory.
Opposition lawmaker Natasha Singh-Lewis has demanded a full investigation.
“We need to understand how this horrific and deadly incident happened and take all necessary steps to prevent such a tragedy from happening again,” he said.