Girls burnt in deadly Guyana school fire still critical
Two girls badly burnt in a school dormitory fire that killed 19 children in Guyana were too weak to be evacuated to another country for specialized treatment, an official said Wednesday.
They were injured when an inferno Sunday gutted a building housing girls aged 11-12 and 16-17 in Mahdia, central Guyana.
"If there is a need for overseas treatment, they will be permitted (to leave), but the doctors have not yet said so... They are still too critical," health ministry official Leslie Ramsammy told AFP.
Both were being treated for respiratory complications in intensive care.
Cuba and Barbados have offered to take in some of the wounded for medical care.
Ramsammy said DNA samples have been sent to New York to help identify the charred remains of 13 of the 19 children who died in the blaze.
On Tuesday, a police report said a girl disgruntled at having her mobile phone confiscated is believed to have set the fire in anger. Pupils are not allowed to have phones in the dormitory.
A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a teenager had admitted to the arson and was under police guard in hospital.
Police said there were 57 pupils in the dormitory, which was "a one-flat concrete building measuring about 100 feet by 40 feet."
The building had metal bars on the windows, which prevented the pupils from escaping.
The official said the girl had sprayed insecticide on a curtain and lit a match, causing the fire.
The girls had been locked in for the night, and a house mistress told police that in her panic she could not find the front door key.
Some pupils, including the girl who allegedly started the fire, managed to escape when some men broke down a door.
Firefighters did not arrive on the scene until 25 minutes after the fire took hold.
Thirteen young girls and a boy believed to be the house mistress's son died in the building, while five other girls died later in hospital.
About 20 other children were taken to hospital.
Guyana's independence day celebrations Friday will this year be a day of remembrance, the presidency has announced. The country is observing three days of national mourning.
Impoverished Guyana, with a population of 800,000, is South America's only English-speaking nation.
It is a former Dutch and British colony, which recently discovered it holds the world's largest per-capita oil reserves.