GUYANA: NINETEEN perished in Mahdia secondary school blaze – Gov’t

The fire sceneGUYANA: Nineteen  perished in Mahdia secondary school blaze – 

By and May 22, 2023m – Stabroek News

The government this morning provided the figure for those killed.

On her Facebook page, Education Minister Priya Manickchand provided the following update:

“Standing in what remains of the Mahdia Female Dormitory that housed 59 students less than 12 hours ago. 56 girls were present at the time , 3 went home with their families for the weekend.
Children housed at the dorms came from the communities of Karisparu, El Paso, Micobie and Chenapao.

Today, on this 22nd day of May ,19 students lost their lives, 18 of whom were females all between the ages of 12 to 17, and one boy aged 5, child of the dorm parents, who were trying to rescue other children at that time.
6 of our girls remain at the Georgetown Public Hospital and 17 at the Mahdia Hospital, where they are being treated and cared for, let us pray for their recovery and strength at this time”.

The Government of Guyana issued the following statement this morning:


It is with great sadness that we bring to you a heart-wrenching update on the fire at the dormitory at the Mahdia Secondary school. We have lost many beautiful souls in that fire. The death toll currently stands at 20, while several others received injuries.

Five planes have already taken off to Mahdia to support the regional health officials with additional medical supplies and medivacs. At this moment, seven children are prepared to be medivac to Georgetown.

The Prime Minister is leading a team of cabinet and other officials to Madhia whilst Minister Benn is already on the ground. The president and other officials are supporting efforts at Ogle to receive the critical patients and coordinate an emergency plan of action. A full-scale medical emergency action plan has been launched. We ask that our prayers continue to be with these children, their families, and communities. (End of statement)

The police this morning issued the following statement:

Police in Region Eight are probing a devastating fire of so-far unknown origin, which destroyed the Mahdia Secondary School’s Female Dormitory, killing 19 students and injuring several others, some in critical condition.

The tragic incident occurred last night (Sunday, May 21) at about 22:50 hrs.

At the time of the fire, sixty-three (63) female students were reportedly in the dormitory. Reports are that 20 students died in the fire: (14 students died inside the building, five died at the Mahdia District Hospital, and one died on the way to Georgetown).

According to one of the female students, who managed to escape, she was awakened by screams and upon checking, she saw a fire in the bathroom area, which quickly spread to other parts of the building.

Commander of the Region, Senior Superintendent Khalid Mandall, along with a Police team and members of the Guyana Fire Service and others from the Joint Services, are on location as investigations continue. A high-level team of Government officials led by Prime Minister Hon. Mark Philips and including several Ministers are currently in Mahdia as Guyana mourns the heart-rending loss of the students. (End of statement)


Details surrounding the cause of the fire at this time are yet to be determined.

From the information reaching Stabroek News, as the fire ripped through the dormitory several students were trapped inside the building.

Firefighters and public-spirited citizens were on the scene trying to contain the blaze and conduct rescue operations.

News of the tragedy sent shock waves across the nation as many were awakened by calls and alerts on the tragedy.

The statement stated that The Ministry of Health and the Joint Services have been collaborating to address the situation. However, the inclement weather and heavy overcast conditions are posing severe challenges to this exercise.

Parkinson John, a resident who resides next door to the Region Eight dormitory this morning told Stabroek News that he assisted in saving at least eight students. According to him, he was the first person to respond to the fire after being alerted by his dogs constantly barking.

“I went over in my underwear alone and tried to save them. On the left side of the building there was only smoke so I rush in and try to get them to exit. The smoke had them bad but I wrap a cloth around my face and run and grab who I can,” John explained. He stated that he made two trips before he had to pull out of the rescue mission due to the high volume of smoke.

He went on to state that if others were brave as him they could have saved more students in a timely manner.

Nonetheless, he stated that persons who responded after him, assisted in trying to open up the grills for the students to escape.

“When I hear the screams I run to get a piece of wood and try to open the grill but I couldn’t do it on my own and the other guys help. They pull who they could have out of the building. Some of the kids were badly burnt…” John who spoke with this publication via phone added.

The first responder and local community hero added that the fire service responded approximately 20 minutes after the blaze started. By then the building was consumed by the inferno.

In a Facebook Live from Mahdia, resident Kyle Smith said that despite the doors being opened after the alarm was raised, students were trapped. It was related that the grills on the windows would have contributed to students being trapped.

Smith in his video stated his wife alerted him to an amber glow in the sky and he later realised it was a fire at the dormitory.

“My wife wake me up and said look how the place looking red red on that one side and it looked so attractive to my eyes. I picked up my phone to take a picture but there and then I realised when people start shouting for help and when I look closely there is fire,” he recounted.

He noted that just after his arrival on the scene, he assisted in taking a student to the Ambulance but many others remained trapped.

He noted that from all indications some students were severely burnt. Those who perished in the fire were badly burnt, it was reported and a few students were found on their beds.

“There isn’t much the fire service could have done because there is just one truck in Mahdia and the lil water it had stored up, they use up and it finishes and the truck gone…about 20 minutes later it returned,” he explained to viewers.

During his live stream, he stated that the roof of the building collapsed and the entire property was engulfed in flames.  The rains however arrived some minutes later and helped put out the blaze.

Government in their statement added “It is with heavy heart and pain that the Cabinet is being briefed and kept updated on a horrific fire at the dormitory in Mahdia…Our thoughts and prayers are with our children and their families at this time. We will continue to update as information becomes available.”

Meanwhile, Opposition parliamentarian Natasha Singh-Lewis said her party is deeply saddened by the news of the fire that engulfed the school dormitory in Mahdia, taking the lives of several school children.

“The loss of innocent lives is always a painful and heartbreaking experience, and this incident has left us all with a heavy heart. As a community, we stand in solidarity with the families of the victims, and we offer our sincerest condolences during this difficult time,” she added.

In the same breath, she used the opportunity to call for a thorough investigation from officials into the cause of the fire and for a  detailed report to be released to the public on what went wrong.

“We need to understand how this most horrific and deadly incident occurred and take all necessary measures to prevent such a tragedy from happening again in the future,” Lewis-Singh said as she pointed out that it is a sad day for the country.


Fire at Mahdia school dormitory –

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  • Verdine Benn  On 05/22/2023 at 9:58 pm

    Did the building have fire exits, fire extinguishers and fire alarms? This is despicable, it sounds as though there were no fire escapes. Not 1 or 2 deaths but 20! My God, who were the builders? No fire hydrants in the vicinity of the building?

    • wally  On 05/25/2023 at 10:18 am

      maybe once a month random fire drills..I am sure the buildings are all wood. Very sad

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 05/23/2023 at 1:31 pm

    How heartbreaking for the young lives lost and their families ❤

  • Bob Gopie  On 05/23/2023 at 2:23 pm

    It is heart breaking to see so many innocent lives lost. Sure all of Guyana and all Guyanese around the world mourns. May their souls rest in Peace. 🙏🇬🇾🇨🇦

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