(INEWS)President Dr Irfaan Ali this afternoon declared three days of national mourning during an address to the nation in the wake of the deadly fire at the Mahdia Secondary School female dormitory last night.
The tragic event resulted in the lives of 19 children, including 18 girls.
The Head of State said that from 4pm today, the national flag must be flown at half-staff at all public buildings in honour of the children who lost their lives.
“I ask that as a nation we utilise the next three days as three days of prayers for these children, their families and the community”.
President Ali described today as one of the “saddest days” in his life as president and said that Guyana is in pain.
“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.”
According to the President, in his interaction with the family members, their immediate goal is to have peace by seeing their loved ones.
A total of 59 girls were staying in the dorms, but only 56 were in the rooms when the fire started since three went home for the weekend.
Thirteen of the girls and a little boy died at the dorms, while five died at the Mahdia Hospital.
Of those injured, six children were medevacked to Georgetown in the wee hours of the morning, while 17 are in the Mahdia Hospital.
Due to the severity of the deaths, DNA analysis is needed to identify the 13 female victims, who perished at the dormitory. The Government of Guyana has already sought the needed support from regional and international partners and is optimistic that by the end of the day, that support will be received to bring closure to the families.
President Ali said that he has received many messages from leaders across CARICOM and from international partners, who convey the love and prayers of their governments and people.
At home, a technical Task Force led by Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan and a Cabinet Task Force led by Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d), the Honourable Mark Phillips were created.
The President disclosed that the Government has mobilised full counselling services for the children, their families and community members.
“I’m committing, as I have done to the family members already, our full unconditional, unhindered support for the families and these children; whether it be medical, social, counselling, financial, transportation, accommodation- whatever the form of support required, the state will provide that support to the families, to the children.”
In addition, he divulged that the Ministry of Education is working on the reprogramming of all educational requirements, which includes the CXC examination that some of our children who have lost their lives and other children at the school are taking at this time.