International help to deal with fallout from deadly Mahdia fire

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 17:37 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Tuesday announced that Cuba, the Caribbean and the United States (US) have offered to assist Guyana with treatment of a number of schoolgirls who were severely burnt by fire in the dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School, even as horrific details about the reason for the inferno emerge.

“We cannot also not remember the generous offer of Cuba yesterday (Monday) to give us full medical support in and out of Guyana and to be a host country for any medical needs in Cuba,” he said.

The death toll remains at 19.

A senior official of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) said two of the seven girls there remained in critical condition. Dr Leslie Ramsammy, Adviser to the Minister of Health, said there were no more deaths but two more schoolgirls were expected to be taken to the Georgetown Hospital on Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution.”

The President also announced that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has provided “immediate help” with a team of experts from Barbados “to assist us in the DNA analysis”. He said the Pan American Health Organisation and the United States were among others that “very readily offered full support with what we need at this time.”

Meanwhile, a senior government official said a schoolgirl has since admitted to burning down the dormitory, making good on a threat she had made minutes earlier in retaliation for the seizure of her phone that she had been using to communicate with someone outside the dormitory.

The girl, according to the official, sprayed insecticide on an a lit matchstick and aimed  it at the curtains. Despite efforts by other students, the fire quickly caught the ceiling and spread to the rest of the building.

The official said the house-mother, who resides in a different section of the building, could not have found the right key from among those on the bunch.

Eventually, the suspect escaped when men outside broke down the dormitory’s door.