Mahdia tragedy: ‘Brave, determined’ pilots battle dangerous conditions for rescue operation
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect new information from the authorities. We originally reported 20 people had died.
“Brave, determined” pilots risked “dangerous conditions” to fly into the mountain town of Mahdia as a rescue operation kicked in following a horrific fire at the dormitory housing girls attending the secondary school there, National Security Advisor Gerry Gouveia has stated.
The authorities have said 18 girls and one boy are confirmed dead and there are fears the death toll could rise. Three girls have already been flown to the city and are receiving care at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
The fire started around midnight on Sunday and the authorities set a rescue operation in motion.
Gouveia described the operation as “a national effort”, saying all major local airlines responded immediately.
Getting into Mahdia continues to be problematic, with Gouveia describing it as a “battle.”
“There was a lot of lighting and thunder,” Gouveia related, but he said “the pilots were very brave, very determined” as the authorities tried to save who they can.
Gouveia said it was the worst among the tragedies he has seen in his lifetime working in search and rescue operations.
“These children did not deserve to die like this,” Gouveia stated.
“It’s a day of mourning.”
I must fully compliment the Pilots who spearheaded the Search and Rescue Operation through thick and thin despite the challenges to save as many students as they could out of the inferno. Do keep up the good work your efforts would not go in vain. There must be students who were saved to be forever grateful to you for saving their young lives.