In a tragic turn of events in Guyana, a deadly fire in a student dormitory claimed the lives of 19 individuals, believed to be initiated by a young student as a response to a personal grievance, according to officials. The inferno also resulted in numerous injuries among the dormitory residents of Mahdia Secondary School late Sunday.
The alleged arsonist, a 14-year-old girl, is said to have committed the act in retaliation for her cellphone being confiscated, following the discovery of her illicit affair with an older man. Gerald Gouveia, National Security Advisor, indicated that the young girl had expressed her intentions to set the building ablaze upon the confiscation of her phone.
The suspect, who also suffered injuries in the incident, is expected to recover soon and will be placed under juvenile detention.
Authorities noted that the structure of the dormitory, including its locked doors and grilled windows, severely hindered the escape of the victims during the fire.
Gouveia shed light on the actions of the dorm mother, who he claims locked the girls in out of concern for their safety, as many of them would often sneak out to socialize at night. Tragically, the dorm mother herself was inside the building at the time, yet managed to escape, although she was unable to unlock the doors due to panic.
The catastrophe startled the surrounding neighborhood, with residents waking up to the horrifying screams of the girls trying to flee the inferno, as reported by the BBC. Most victims were indigenous girls from neighboring communities to Mahdia, a mining town near the Brazil border.
Tragically, the dorm mother’s 5-year-old son was among the fatalities.
Thirteen of the deceased victims were burned beyond recognition. In response, Guyana has gratefully accepted international assistance, including forensic experts, to help with DNA identification of the victims.
This case will also lead to multiple charges. Apart from the juvenile suspect, the older man involved in the affair with her is likely to be arrested under charges of statutory rape, according to Gouveia.
This incident marks the deadliest fire in Guyana since a prison fire in Georgetown took 17 lives in 2016.