A teenager is suspected of having caused the fire that killed 19 young people and injured 17 others in a school residence in the mining town of Mahdia, ssouthwestern Guyana, after his cell phone was seized, police said Tuesday.
“Police investigations so far into Sunday night’s deadly fire in Mahdia, that claimed the lives of 19 people, reveal that a student is suspected of causing the devastating fire because the dorm supervisor and a teacher took her cell phone“, indicates the police report.
Earlier, a senior official revealed to AFP under confidentiality that the young woman admitted to having started the fire.
The informant said that witnesses pointed out that the schoolgirl had threatened on Saturday night to burn the facilities in protest of the seizure of her cell phone by the manager of the school residence.
“They are not allowed to have any cell phones and they found this girl with a phone and apparently she was sending photos, so they took the phone from the girl who threatened that same night to burn the building down and everyone listened to her,” the official said.
He pointed out that minutes after the cell phone was taken from him, he went to the bathroom area and sprayed insecticide on a curtain while striking a match.
Despite the efforts of other students to extinguish the fire, the fire quickly ripped through the wooden roof and eventually destroyed the entire building, the official added.
The firefighters arrived 25 minutes after starting the fire in the facilities where 57 students were staying, 14 of whom were burned. Five others died at the Mahdia district hospital, where they were transferred.
Versions indicate that the young woman escaped from the building after several men broke down a door when they realized that the students were trapped inside the concrete structure with metal bars.
The person in charge of the residence, whose son is among the fatalities, told the police that she panicked and could not find the correct key to open the door, which delayed the evacuation.
The managers close every night at 9:00 p.m. sharp to make sure the girls don’t escape the building, the official stressed.
The student who set off the flames remains in police custody at Mahdia Hospital as authorities seek to determine if she could be charged under the Juvenile Justice Act.
National Security Adviser Retired Army Capt. Gerry Gouveia said a team of forensic experts from Barbados arrived in Guyana under the auspices of the Caribbean Community Regional Security System (CARICOM) to assist with DNA analysis for identify bodies.
In addition, forensic experts from the United States will join the reconnaissance tasks in the coming days. “They are coming to do similar things, but obviously they are going to be more advanced,” he told AFP.
President Irfaan Ali announced that Cuba offered treatment to burned students.
The Georgetown Public Hospitals Corporation said two out of seven patients were in critical condition, while Health Ministry adviser Leslie Ramsammy said two more were transferred to the Georgetown public hospital “as a precaution”.