At least 19 die in school dormitory fire in Guyana

The building in the central city of Mahdia was completely engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived around midnight

Published : 22 May 2023, 09:50 AM
Updated : 22 May 2023, 09:50 AM

At least 19children died after a fire gutted a secondary school dormitory in Guyana overnight, emergency services and the government said on Monday.

The building in the central city of Mahdia was "completely engulfed in flames" by the time firefighters arrived around midnight, the Guyana Fire Service said in a statement on Monday.

Fourteen children died at the scene and another five in hospital. Six others, including two in critical condition, were airlifted to the capital, Georgetown, while others remained under local hospital care. Some 20 students were rescued.

Most of the 19 students who died were Indigenous, said Mark Ramotar, the director of the police communications department. "The dorm usually houses students from Indigenous communities," he said.

Police and fire services said they were working to determine the fire's cause.

"According to one of the female students, who managed to escape, she was awakened by screams and ... saw a fire in the bathroom area, which quickly spread to other parts of the building," the police force said in a statement.

Prime Minister Mark Philips and Minister of Education Priya Manickchand visited the site early on Monday, amid heavy rains in the country.

Photos published by the government included one showing Manickchand comforting a woman and walking into a fire-gutted single story building.

"It is with heavy heart and pain that the Cabinet is being briefed and kept updated on (the)... horrific fire," the government said in a statement.