Deadly fire kills 20 in Guyana school
GEORGETOWN: At least 20 youths were killed and several injured in a school dormitory blaze in Guyana, the South American country’s fire brigade said on Monday.
It is not yet known how the fire started on Sunday in a dormitory housing girls aged 11 to 12 and 16 to 17, a person who helped the emergency services said under condition of anonymity.
The building was entirely gutted by the inferno.
“Fourteen youths died at the scene, while five died at the Mahdia District Hospital,” said the fire department in a statement.
The government had previously said 20 people died in the blaze at the Mahdia Secondary School in central Guyana.
Guyana, with a population of 800,000, is the only English-speaking country in South America and among the poorest nations in the continent.
After the weekend tragedy, more than a dozen children received hospital treatment locally while six serious cases were airlifted to Georgetown.
“Two children remain in critical condition, while four are nursing severe injuries as a result of the incident,” added the fire brigade.
“This is a major disaster. It is horrible, it is painful,” President Irfaan Ali said on Sunday night.
Ali said he had ordered arrangements to be made in Georgetown’s two major hospitals “so that every single child who requires attention be given the best possible opportunity to get that attention.”
Private and military planes have been sent to Mahdia, located about 200km south of Georgetown, as the region is affected by heavy rains.
“Five planes have already taken off to Mahdia to support the regional health officials with additional medical supplies and medevac,” the government said. At least one plane with three evacuees returned to Georgetown. “A full-scale medical emergency action plan has been launched,” it added.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2023