Fire alarms, detection systems were absent at Mahdia dorms – COI hears

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As the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Mahdia dormitory fire continued on Friday, Guyana Fire Service Cadet Officer Javid Mohamed said evidence unearthed at the scene confirmed ‘”rumours” that the fire was maliciously set.

“….Upon investigation, we checked through the charred remains and you could see the severity of the burns. And due to the fact that there was no external heat source, that fire needed human intervention to start,” Mohamed said when he took the witness stand at the CoI.

In his sworn testimony, Mohamed told the Commission, which is chaired by Major General (Ret’d) Joe Singh, that he travelled to the scene twice; hours after the fire and on June 1 and confirmed the ‘rumours’ that the fire was maliciously set.

“We went back to the scene and we formed grids in the dorm, two feet by two feet girds and we thoroughly sifted through them to look for anything that may be used to start the fire,” Mohamed related.

He added, “We did a total of 46 grids, in the course of two days and we found some objects that were taken to the forensic lab for testing. We found bits of aluminum, a nozzle belonging to a can and bits of glass and also we found a cell phone charger that was partially burnt”.

The fire which occurred on May 21 claimed the lives of 20 students.

A teenage girl was subsequently charged with 20 counts of murder.

Confirming that the investigation confirmed that the fire started inside the building, Mohamed also told attorney Keoma Griffith, who is leading evidence into the Commission, that there was no fire alarm or smoke detector system in place at the time of the fire.

Guyana Fire Service Cadet Officer Javid Mohamed testifies under oath.

All the windows and doors of the dormitory were also grilled, he said.

“It was really devastating to see a dorm like that…Then we went to the holes they (citizens) made…they used beams to make the holes in the walls to get the children out,” Mohamed related.

Mohamed, whose responsibilities include conducting training and fire inspections said the last inspection at the dormitory was conducted in February 2023.

In addition, he further told the Commission, that the fire service experienced difficulty in sourcing water and there were no close by hydrants.

““We would use open water source with a light pump because most times the open source is located in these areas where the trucks can’t meet,” he said.

But despite this, Mohamed maintained that the fire service was “adequately” prepared to respond to the tragedy and their best response was given.

Mohamed is among four witnesses who testified before the Commission as day two of the public hearings concluded.

 

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