Mahdia dormitory fire was maliciously set – investigation finds
The fire that claimed the lives of 18 females and a five-year-old boy in the township of Mahdia was maliciously set, the Guyana Fire Service confirmed during an update Monday afternoon.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer (ag), Dwayne Scotland revealed that the fire was lit in the south-western end of the building, which rapidly consumed the building killing 19 children residing in the dormitory.
“After we would have completed our initial investigation, the same was handed over to the police force,” Scotland revealed.
He said the Mahdia Fire Station received a call about the fire at 23:15 hours on Sunday; it took the firefighters four minutes to arrive at the scene; however, the building was completely engulfed in flames.
“Immediately, firefighting and rescue operation initiated. These operations would have rescued not less than 20 students. The operation continued for approximately three and a half hours after which, the fire was brought under control and subsequently extinguished,” he noted.
Commissioner of Police (ag) Clifton Hicken has assured that the force’s investigation will be concluded swiftly and will bemade public as soon as the investigation is completed.
Hicken further stated that DNA testing will be conducted expeditiously to identify 13 bodies that were charred, while post-mortem has been completed on six of the bodies.
“I want to reiterate on behalf of the force, my condolences going out to the families, we will conclude this investigation swiftly,” the commissioner expressed.
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan, who is also heading the technical committee to coordinate the national response, explained that at about 23:15 hours, they received a call for a medevac operation.
Subsequently, a national mobilisation effort was organised involving assets from the Ministry of Health, the joint services, as well as the private sector.
These include five aircraft, six ambulances, and over 80 emergency, medical, and security personnel.
“As you know, last night was bad weather and because of this, we had some concerns about flying into this area; however, despite this, our pilots were determined to execute this medical evacuation operations,” Brigadier Khan stated.
This resulted in the successful extraction of nine of the female students who received injuries.
The Chief of Staff also expressed his heartfelt sympathy on behalf of the defence force to all those who lost their loved ones and to the ones who survived the incident.
President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali has announced an official three days of mourning for those who lost their lives.