A fire at a Guyana secondary school has left at least 19 children dead and several seriously injured. The incident occurred on the night of Sunday to Monday May 22. The families of the victims demand justice and that the reason for the conflagration be clarified.
A school in Guyana was devastated by fire in the early hours of Monday, May 22. At least 19 children who slept in a bedroom died.
“According to one of the students, who managed to escape, she was woken up by screams and (…) saw a fire in the bathroom area, which quickly spread to other parts of the building,” police said in a statement.
Authorities initially said 20 students had died, but National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia said the figure was revised after doctors resuscitated a critically ill patient who “everyone thought was dead.” According to the authorities, 14 children died at the scene of the tragedy and another five in a local hospital.
Several serious injuries were also reported. Officials said two children remain in critical condition and four others have severe injuries.
“This is a horrible incident. It is tragic. It is painful,” said President Irfaan Ali. “I cannot imagine the pain of the parents at this time,” he added. “This is a big disaster.”
The Guyana Fire Service expressed in a statement its “deepest condolences to the family and friends of these young souls.”
The fire was reported in the dormitory building of a secondary school in the city of Mahdia, located about 320 kilometers south of the capital, Georgetown.
The school mainly welcomes children between the ages of 12 and 18 and approximately 57 children were housed in the dormitory. According to the Police, most of the students who died were indigenous from the mountain towns of Chenapau, Karisparu, Micobie and El Paso, since “the residence usually houses students” from those communities.
intervention of firefighters
“When the firefighters arrived on the scene, the building was already completely engulfed in flames,” the Fire Service detailed.
The authorities appreciated the work of the firefighters who sought to save as many children as possible. According to the department, “Firefighters managed to rescue about 20 students by punching holes in the northeast wall of the building.”
Heavy storms in the area posed a challenge for air response teams.
“It was a battle for us (…) The pilots were very brave, very determined,” Gouveia said..
The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed.
“Our team remains on the ground investigating as we try to clarify how the fire started and all other necessary information,” the department said.
Families ask for justice
The president assured that “all efforts are being made to have a large-scale reinforcement and evacuation medical response.”
But for several indigenous peoples in the village of Chenapau, a better response from the state is needed.
“We need compensation. We need justice,” chanted dozens of men and women, demonstrating outside Chenapau Primary School (which many of Mahdia High School’s students attended).
Native American rights activist Michael McGarrell called for special attention to the families of victims and survivors living in remote communities.
“We demand that the authorities carry out a thorough investigation into the causes of the fire and prepare a detailed report on what happened. We must understand how this horrible and deadly event occurred and take all necessary measures to prevent this tragedy from happening again.” in the future,” said Natasha Singh-Lewis, an opposition MP.
With EFE, AP, AFP and Reuters
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