Police in Guyana reported Tuesday that a teenage girl is suspected of setting a fire at a school dormitory in the mining town of Mahdia, in the southwest of the country, in which 19 young people died and 17 others were injured. According to police, the girl’s cell phone was seized before the fire. An official revealed on condition of anonymity that the teenager admitted to starting the fire and that witnesses indicated that she had threatened to burn down the facility in protest of the confiscation of her cell phone. After the device was confiscated, the girl went to the bathroom area, where she sprayed insecticide on a curtain and lit a match, which quickly sparked a fire that consumed the building.
Firefighters arrived 25 minutes after the fire started but were unable to prevent the wooden ceiling from catching fire and completely destroying the building. The teenager is believed to have escaped from the building after some men broke down a door to free the trapped students. The dorm manager, whose son is among the fatalities, said she panicked and could not find the correct key to open the door, delaying the evacuation.
The student suspected of starting the fire is in police custody at Mahdia Hospital, and authorities are investigating the possibility of filing charges under the Juvenile Justice Act. In addition, a team of forensic experts from Barbados has been formed to assist in DNA analysis and identification of the bodies.
The President of Guyana announced that Cuba has offered medical treatment for the burned students. Currently, two of the seven patients are in critical condition, and two more were transferred as a precaution to a public hospital in Georgetown.
This tragic incident has shocked the community and sparked a debate about safety in school residences and student access to cell phones. Authorities continue to investigate the case and provide support to the victims and their families.
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