A fire in a school dormitory in Guyana that killed 19 children was lit by a student angry her mobile phone had been confiscated, police said today.
Nineteen people – mostly female students – were killed in the blaze in the South American country in the early hours of Monday.
The dorm was reportedly locked and had covered windows which trapped victims.
The teenage suspect, whose phone police said was taken away by school authorities, is currently in hospital with burns.
“A female student is suspected of having set the devastating fire because her cellular phone was taken away by the dorm’s mother and a teacher,” police said in a statement.
David Adams, the mayor of Mahdia, the town where the school is located, earlier confirmed the student’s alleged involvement to Reuters and said she was not injured in the fire.
Some students told investigators they were awakened by screams and saw fire and smoke in the dorm’s bathroom area, police said.
The government pathologist who conducted post-mortems on six bodies late on Monday listed their cause of death as smoke inhalation and burns, police added.
Thirteen sets of remains had been moved to the capital Georgetown for DNA identification. Nearly 30 other children were hospitalised.
Asked about allegations that the dormitory was not outfitted with a modern fire alarm system and that students were not trained in fire drills, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand told Reuters “all of that is under investigation and a report will be issued once that is done. What must come of this is improvement across the sector.”
Burn specialists, psychiatrists and other medical staff were attending to injured children and their families, she added.
The youngest of the fatalities was the five-year-old son of the dormitory’s caretaker. All other victims were girls, and included several siblings and at least one set of twins.
President Irfaan Ali met with some parents of the dead on Monday after visiting Mahdia’s hospital, and declared three days of national mourning.