The entire country has been plunged into mourning following the death of 19 children in a fire at the Mahdia Secondary School dormitory late last night.
18 of those who died were female students of the school. The 9th child was a young boy who was the son of the caretaker of the facility.
A number of other children are nursing severe burns and other injuries.
The fire reportedly started just after 11 o’ clock on Sunday night while most of the children ere asleep. It quickly engulfed the heavily grilled wooden building, and that resulted in many of the children being trapped.
A cause of the fire is still to be confirmed. Fire investigators from Georgetown have flown in to the community to assist the local fire service.
Villagers recounted this morning that the fire service was summoned moments after the blaze was noticed. By the time the firemen arrived, the entire building was engulfed in flames.
The firemen were forced to hammer a hole through the concrete wall to reach some of the children. They were able to save more than 20 of them.
In Georgetown, President Irfaan Ali summoned a meeting of his cabinet after being briefed about the tragedy.
The President then visited the Eugene F. Correia Airport at Ogle and overlooked the start up of the medical evacuation operation to bring out the critically injured students.
A total of six badly burned girls were flown out of the area and are now recovering slowly.
The Mahdia Secondary School houses a large number of students from outlying indigenous communities.
Many of them lived in the school dorm.
The President said the tragedy has left the nation broken and in mourning.
“This is a horrific incident and its tragic, it is painful and I cannot imagine the pain of the parents and of the children, and as a country we will have to deal with this”, President Ali said.
Teams of Doctors and other medical personnel were also sent into the area to provide additional support, despite the rainy conditions that initially hampered the medivac operations.
Once the injured were brought out, National Security Advisor, Captain Gerry Gouveia, said the evacuation exercise brought together the joint services and members of the private airlines.
This afternoon, President Irfaan Ali flew into the community for an on the ground assessment and to offer his sympathy to the families of those who lost their children.