Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown, Guyana has offered his deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the families of the 19 children who died in a fire that engulfed the Mahdia Secondary School female dormitory just after midnight Monday, May 22.
Preliminary inquiries by the Guyana Fire Service conclude that the fire was “maliciously set”, said a Stabroek News article.
In the one-minute video message via Catholic Media Guyana, Bishop Alleyne described the incident as a “tragedy”.
He said that parents of victims, those who were injured, other students of the school and teachers are now “bearing the brunt” of “deep trauma” resulting from the fire.
“With so many others, I join in sympathy, in deep concern and prayer as we all try to comprehend the profound loss and pain,” Bishop Alleyne said.
In the wake of the deadly fire, President Dr Irfaan Ali declared three days of national mourning. He said that the national flag will be flown at half-staff at all public buildings in honour of the children who lost their lives, according to a Guyana Chronicle report.
“There are no words that can describe this magnitude of pain that our brothers and sisters are going through today…We wish this day had never occurred… This is a pain we must carry as a nation and as a family. It is a pain we must share together and support in our prayers,” President Ali said.
The local news source reported when the news broke, President Ali immediately rushed to the Eugene F Correia International Airport where he coordinated an emergency plan of action. He also was on hand to witness the arrival of some of the seriously injured children.
President Ali stressed he is committed to bringing justice to the victims’ families and as such a technical task force led by Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and a Cabinet task force led by the Prime Minister, will be established.
He announced Monday that the government was seeking regional and international assistance to conduct DNA tests on several of the bodies to confirm their identities.