A pupil is reportedly suspected of starting a fire at her boarding school in Guyana, which killed 19 people Monday.
Officials said the pupil started the fire because school staff confiscated her cell phone, the BBC reported Wednesday. The adolescent student is currently recovering from the incident in a local area hospital, and has admitted to arson, according to the outlet.
Nineteen people, predominantly the school’s female pupils, were reportedly killed in the blaze, which started in the early hours of Monday morning. The victims were allegedly locked inside the dormitory and their windows were covered, which trapped them as the fire broke out in a bathroom area, according to the outlet.
Local authorities are debating whether or not to charge the teenager, the BBC reported, citing government sources. The girl is said to have threatened the attack after being disciplined over a previous alleged relationship with an older man, National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia told the Associated Press (AP).
At least 19 students were killed after a fire engulfed a gov’t boarding school in Guyana which serves mostly Indigenous students.
Authorities are investigating whether it was started deliberately ⤵️
🔗: https://t.co/spwzvOOY2z pic.twitter.com/2MDlPoad1b
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 23, 2023
Fifty-seven pupils were inside the dorm at the time, according to the BBC. The fire eventually ripped through the entire structure, which was partly made of wood. (RELATED: ‘Tragic’ School Fire Kills 19 School Children, Injures Others In Guyana)
The dorm’s administrator, who allegedly lost her five-year-old son in the blaze, was unable to find the correct keys to let the girls out of the burning building due to her state of panic, Gouveia told AP. Firefighters eventually had to smash through the walls to try and help people escape, the BBC reported.
Aside from those killed, a number of pupils and others are currently in the hospital in critical condition, according to the outlet. Many of those who perished had to be identified using DNA testing, as the fire was so significant, the BBC continued, citing local media.