Mahdia Tragedy: Victims to be honoured during upcoming anniversary – Benn


May 21 will mark one year since 20 children lost their lives in the Mahdia dormitory fire and to honour them, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn on Thursday said the day will be designated: ‘Fire Victims Awareness Day’.

The day, Benn said will feature a series of activities observed at all fire stations across the country, aimed at raising awareness of fire safety and prevention.

“On that day we should have pictures of those we lost at a place we could go and remember them and reinstall in ourselves and remind ourselves, particularly of our mission, our task, our role in this particular skilled area which is so important for the development of our country,” Benn said.

He made the disclosure as he addressed senior officers of the Guyana Fire Service at the opening ceremony of their 5th annual officers’ conference.

A total of 20 children, 19 girls and a five-year-old boy, lost their lives in the fire on May 21, 2023. Several others were injured.

It was reported that the fire was started by a young student. A Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI), chaired by Major (ret’d) Joe Singh, was later set up to investigate the incident.

After months of hearings, the report was presented and it called into question the lapses of several individuals in the events that led up to the fire, during the conflagration and even after.

The 20 victims of the Mahdia Secondary School dorm fire

The report of the CoI concluded that the fire was act of arson but said even a fully-equipped facility would not have yielded a different result.

In recent times, Benn said investigations into the majority of the fires revealed that they are caused BY  human activity.

“Fires are caused mostly as a result of human activity, mostly due to lack of preparedness, awareness and consciousness in relation to the protection,” he said.

Noting that the fire service is still challenged, Benn told the management team gathered that there is a need for them to fashion their response, awareness and preparedness in order to control and respond to the reality.

“Preparedness, readiness, energy, making sure that we make improvements every day where we work and around each other are of great significance,” Benn said.

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