A teenage student whom Guyana police accuse of setting a deliberate fire in a girl's dormitory that killed 18 schoolmates and a five-year-old boy was charged Monday as an adult with 19 counts of murder.
The fire killed 18 mostly indigenous girls and a five-year-old boy in the building in the central city of Mahdia. The girl set the fire after her phone was confiscated, according to police.
The 15-year-old girl appeared virtually at the hearing in a courthouse south of the capital Georgetown and was ordered detained pending further court proceedings.
Investigators allege she started the fire at Mahdia Secondary School on May 21 in anger at the administrator over the confiscation of her mobile phone. The government boarding school serves remote indigenous villages in the southwest of the country.
ðŸ‡¬ðŸ‡¾ | ATTENTION: At least 20 child victims of a fire in a residence in Guyana died this morning. pic.twitter.com/3ilDvtqIsI– Last Hour News (@UltimaHoraNo) May 22, 2023
The girl was not allowed to plead guilty to the charges and will appear in court a second time on July 5, when state and defense attorneys will indicate whether they are ready to start a preliminary trial.
The fire at the school started just before midnight. More than two dozen students were injured while rescuers pulled at least 20 others out of the building with iron gratings. One of the seriously injured students was taken to a New York hospital for specialized treatment, while most were released.
Since the fire, President Ali declared three days of national mourning, while the United States, Cuba, and other Caribbean countries have offered assistance in treating students who suffered severe burns.