A Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the May 20-21, 2023 Mahdia Secondary School Dorm fire, which claimed the lives of 20 students, and injured several others, was completed and handed over to President Ali yesterday, 19th of January, 2024.
Two visits were paid by the Commission to the town of Mahdia. 25 witnesses were interviewed, 14 of whom provided written statements.
- An individual intentionally set the dorm on fire.
- A better equipped facility would not have brought about a different outcome due to the speed at which the fire spread and the fact that it was deliberately set.
- “Understandable” human failure to access the keys contributed to the magnitude of the tragedy.
- The Mahdia Fire Service was contacted late.
- There were five un-grilled doors that provided entry and exit to the dorm. However, this did not mitigate the tragedy due to the rapidness at which the blaze turned into an inferno.
- There was a delay in contacting or seeking the assistance of the Mahdia Fire Station.
- There were inadequacies in the Mahdia Fire Service in rescue and fire fighting equipment.
- There was lack of available water supply to fight the fire.
Factors which contributed to the tragedy:
- influence of the mining culture on social relationships within communities.
- the vulnerability of youth, particularly teenage female students, in the town of Mahdia.
- the influence of adults in the mining sector who groom young females, in some cases with the tacit support of family members who benefit financially from such arrangements.
- Negligence of particular officials in fire-readiness and in the education sector, and psycho-social services to deal condignly with deviant behavior.
- The members of the Mahdia Fire Service were still able to effect the rescue of 14 students who were trapped in the burning building despite the fact that they were contacted late.
- There was rapid mobilization of resources as well as instant responsiveness by the government.
- The courage and commitment of the aviation services and medical personnel stand tall during this national tragedy.
- The outstanding leadership of President Ali as he took responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy was exemplary.
A suitable memorial will be constructed on the site of the tragedy in honor of the victims and as a reminder of the urgency to pay careful attention to the needs of our children. Other recommendations were made and handed over in the official report of the COI which was given to President Ali.
Editor’s Note: The tragic 2023 Mahdia dorm fire was reportedly started by a teenage female student who became enraged after her cellphone, with which she communicated with her adult romantic partner, was seized by the dorms mother. It is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Guyana.