School Fire in Mahdia Guyana

This article is about the school fire in Mahdia, Guyana.

20 Dead in Tragic Mahdia Fire in Guyana

The nation of Guyana was struck by a tragedy, when a huge fire broke out at a female students’ dormitory in Mahdia. The blaze took the lives of 20 children.

According to reports, the deadly fire spread quickly — soon growing big enough to engulf the entire building. It started at around 10:15 PM on May 22, 2023. In the four minutes that it allegedly took the fire responders to arrive, the fire had already enveloped the whole dormitory. It continued to rage for more than three hours until the firefighters were able to control the situation early Monday morning.

The concrete and wooden dormitory was part of the Mahdia Secondary School. Due to inclement weather, first responders experienced difficulty reaching the site of the incident and rescuing the students still trapped inside the dormitory.

Firefighters on the scene identified the building’s southwestern end as the fire’s point of origin. They were able to rescue around 20 female students on the opposite end of the dormitory by breaking the walls and making holes for the responders to pull students through.

In a press release on Facebook, the Guyana Fire and Rescue Service noted that out of the 19 fatalities (at the time), 14 died on the scene while the remaining five (now 6) died at the Mahdia District Hospital.

Among those rescued from the fire, five were admitted at the Mahdia District Hospital, while 10 were put under observation. Six students with severely critical conditions were airlifted to a hospital in Georgetown. At the time of the statement, two more victims were in critical condition while four had severe injuries.

Young Lives Lost to the Mahdia Fire in Guyana

The dormitory housed a total of 57 female students who were between the ages of 12 and 18. However, some reports noted that at the time of the fire, only 56 students were staying in the dorms. 

Out of the fatalities, one was a little five-year-old boy who was the son of the dormitory’s caretaker. The rest of the 19 were young girls who studied at the school, all of whom came from the surrounding towns and villages, including El Paso, Campbelltown, and Micobie.

The names were not announced immediately due to the extent of the burns and difficulties in identification. According to the police commissioner, 13 of the bodies were severely damaged, so they had to rely on DNA identification.

Suspected Cause of the Mahdia Fire in Guyana

During the initial interviews, police and firefighters have noted that they believed the fire was “maliciously set.” On Tuesday, the police authorities revealed in a statement that the prime suspect in their investigations was a fellow dorm inhabitant and student. She was no more than 16 years old. 

According to reports, the girl deliberately set the fire in the dorm’s bathroom area. This was allegedly done in retaliation to the dorm mother and a teacher confiscating her mobile phone earlier that day. 

Since the fire began late in the evening, most of the students were already deep asleep in their beds. The blaze spread rapidly, trapping the students in the building. The iron grills on the windows and the locked doors also played a role in trapping the students inside.

Possible Legal Ramifications of the Tragedy

The public boarding school was part of the government’s campaign to raise the education level of the many indigenous or Amerindian people in Mahdia. The catastrophic event and all the particulars surrounding the tragic deaths of the young students can have legal ramifications — for the school, the local authorities, and perhaps even the national government.

Although the weather conditions contributed to complicating the promptness of the early response teams, the condition of the dorm and its rules were another factor. Without the locked dormitory doors and barred windows, more students may have been able to escape the fire before the arrival of the firefighters.

Moreover, activists have already raised concerns, not only about the window grills and locked doors, but also the poor design of the building. The Guyana Human Rights Association has also noted how Madhia has largely existed as a legal vacuum prior to 2017, which still impacts its state today.

President Irfaan Ali has already announced the formation of a commission of inquiry to investigate the causes and circumstances surrounding the tragic Mahdia fire in Guyana.


This article was about the school fire in Mahdia, Guyana.

By Melissa Ramnauth, Esq. | This content is copyright of West Indian Diplomacy, LLC and may not be reproduced without permission.

She runs West Indian Diplomacy, a Caribbean blog aimed at promoting West Indian history and business in the global marketplace. Melissa has been an attorney for over 10 years. She currently focuses on trademark registration, trademark searches, and office actions. She also has extensive legal experience in the areas of trademarks, copyrights, contracts, and business formations. She owns her own Trademark Law Firm that is virtually based out of Fort Lauderdale.

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