Mahdia fire: Govt will discuss compensation with families

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 May 2023, 17:53 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Thursday said government would hold separate talks with families of the 19 children who were burnt to death in the dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School earlier this week, even as government was expecting foreign psychologists to join their Guyanese counterparts at a time of severe mental stress.

“We have made a commitment that when we get through this period, the issue of compensation was raised, and every single family will be spoken to directly and this need will be responded to,” he said in a Facebook live update.

National Security Advisor, Gerald Gouveia said that one child, who attempted suicide, was flown to Georgetown earlier Thursday, and six others who are on “suicide watch” would be taken to City.

The President said psychologists were busy providing counselling to survivors, families of the injured and deceased and other persons in Mahdia, Georgetown and communities from which the students hailed. He said government has received positive responses from Mount Sinai hospital, Pan American Health Organisation, the US Army’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Regional Security System to provide psychologists. We are hoping that these specialised counsellors will come to support our local team in the communities, in the schools to support the families during this difficult time,” he said.

Dr Ali said plans were being made to fly out one of the two critical students as she has sustained 40 percent burns. She is expected to be flown to Shriner Children’s Hospital Burn Care Centre in Texas.

Meanwhile, he said Cuba’s offer to provide treatment in Havana was still on the table.

The President reiterated that government would spare no effort to provide transportation, food, support with the funerals and other forms of assistance in the short, medium and possibly long term. “The government of Guyana is taking all necessary steps to provide every support, every conceivable support that is necessary at this time for these children, families and their communities because we understand that this impact is extended,” he said.

The Guyana Police Force was Thursday yet to say whether it has received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions on how to proceed with the teenage girl who is the prime suspect in setting the dormitory ablaze after the dorm mother and a teacher seized her phone.

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn believed that the outcome could have been different if firefighters had been alerted earlier. Based on timelines provided by the police force and the fire service, the Fire Service was notified about the blaze 25 minutes after a student had been awakened by screams and seen the fire in the bathroom area.