Sunday night’s inferno killed 19 people, many of them indigenous students from rural parts of the country.
Guyanese officials have revealed it was a student who allegedly started a deadly fire that engulfed the dormitory of a girls’ boarding school, killing 19 people.
The fire, which occurred late Sunday evening, was one of the deadliest in recent years for the South American country. About nine people remain hospitalized, many of them in serious condition.
On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia told The Associated Press that the fire started with a teenage student who was upset about her cellphone being confiscated after discovering she was having an affair with a older man. age.
Gouveia explained that the student, who is under 16, started the fire in the dormitory bathroom. Leslie Ramsammy, an adviser to the Guyana Ministry of Health, confirmed that the suspect was being treated for burns in hospital and should be returned to juvenile detention.
Gouveia added that the man who was allegedly involved in a relationship with the student should face statutory rape charges.
News of the suspect’s identification was picked up by the mayor of Mahdia, the mining town where the boarding school is located. “I can confirm that the fire was started by a student,” Mayor David Adams told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
Police had treated Hell as suspicious, after an initial investigation suggested it had been ‘maliciously set up’.
Many of the victims were Indigenous girls between the ages of 12 and 18, from towns like Madhia, as well as villages like Micobie, Campbelltown and El Paso.
Five of the 19 killed died at the Mahdia district hospital, while the others perished at the school itself. The youngest person killed was the five-year-old son of the dormitory guard.
Guyana Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken said 13 bodies were referred for DNA identification after being badly charred. Post-mortem examinations were carried out on the other six, he added.
Following the fire, President Irfaan Ali declared three days of national mourning. “It’s a major disaster. It’s horrible, it’s painful,” he said in a press release. He has since met with some of the relatives of the dead.
The fire quickly engulfed the southwestern part of Mahdia Secondary School, located about 320 km (200 miles) south of the capital Georgetown.
Gouveia, the national security adviser, said the dormitory had been locked for the night to ensure the students did not sneak out.
The sitter slept as the fire grew rapidly, Gouveia said, and when she was awakened she panicked and struggled to find the correct keys to open the door.
The Guyana Fire and Rescue Service said it received a call around 11:15 p.m. local time on Sunday (3:15 a.m. GMT Monday). “It took the firefighters four minutes to arrive on the scene,” said a government statement. “However, the building was completely engulfed in flames.”
The firefighters were nevertheless able to save around twenty people by drilling holes in the walls of the building to bring the students to safety.