3 days of national mourning declared; condolences pour in after Mahdia tragedy

In light of the tragic occurrence on Sunday night in Mahdia, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), where 19 young lives were lost to a vicious inferno; a national mourning period was announced amidst an outpouring of messages of support and condolences, as families mourn the loss of their loved ones.
On the heels of his visit to the region on Monday, President Dr Irfaan Ali has announced a three-day national mourning period for the country, that begun on Monday afternoon at 16:00h. As such, all flags in the country would be flown at half mast, commemorating the 19 lives lost at the female dorms of the Mahdia Secondary School.

President Dr Irfaan Ali announcing the country will observe three days of mourning

“I ask that as a nation we utilise the next three days as three days of prayers for these children, their families and the community,” a saddened President Ali related.
The Head of State went on to add, “There are no words that can describe this magnitude of pain that our brothers and sisters are going through today…We wish this day had never occurred… This is a pain we must carry as a nation and as a family. It is a pain we must share together and support in our prayers.”

Honour the memories
Meanwhile, Guyana’s First Lady, Arya Ali, was amongst the first to voice her despair, sympathising with the parents who tragically lost their children in the blaze.
“In this very difficult time for our nation, my thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and the 19 little ones who tragically lost their lives in the fire at the Mahdia dormitory this morning (Monday). As a parent, I will do what I know every parent in Guyana will do, which is hug our children a little tighter today and remind them of how much we love them. But sadly, there are families who will not be able to do that today. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, their community will need us to offer our support and to be our very best as Guyanese. We owe it to them,” the First Lady wrote.
The First Lady Ali added, “May we honour the memories of our little ones who are no longer with us even while we continue to pray for the survivors, their families, friends and communities.”
From the other side of the spectrum, the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) expressed its condolences to the families, relatives, friends, residents of Mahdia, Region Eight and all Guyanese.
“We wish all those that are injured a speedy recovery and express our support and gratitude to the medical team and others who are engaged in the process of treating and helping the injured and hope there are no more fatalities.  Special appreciation and thanks to our brave pilots and the Joint Services who played and continue to play a key role in the entire operation. We also wish to express gratitude to the people of Mahdia who worked assiduously to rescue the children trapped in the Mahdia Secondary School dormitory.”

Unimaginable pain
Further, the Ethnic Relations Commission added to the messages of condolences stating, “The Chairman and Commissioners of the Ethnic Relations Commission, (ERC), are collectively saddened and shocked at the deaths of the nineteen children who perished following a fire at their school’s dormitory in Mahdia, Region Eight.
“This tragedy has inflicted unimaginable pain on the affected families. The Commission shares their pain and sorrow and offers its deepest condolences on their tragic loss and trusts that they be strengthened during this extremely difficult time and be able to find some comfort from the outpouring of support from Guyanese and others.”
In similar faith, the Guyana Marketing and Services Association shared, “With profound sorrow and heavy hearts, we were utterly devastated this morning upon receiving the heart-wrenching news of the horrific fire that mercilessly consumed the Mahdia Secondary School’s Female Dormitory. The flames, fuelled by unfathomable tragedy, ruthlessly snuffed out the lives of 20 vibrant and promising young Guyanese students, leaving an indelible void in our hearts.
The weight of this unimaginable calamity bears down upon us with a profound sense of loss and despair. Each soul lost in this inferno represents a world of dreams, aspirations, and potential abruptly cut short. The magnitude of this tragedy is truly overwhelming, as the flickering flames devoured not only their innocent lives but also shattered the hopes and futures that were intertwined with them.”
Given their close association with the mining town in which the tragedy struck, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) also expressed their sadness at the occurrence.
“The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association extends its deepest condolences to the family, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic fire at the Mahdia school dorms and wish the survivors a speedy recovery.
The association joins in sympathy with all Guyanese, as we share in this collective sadness and mourn this national tragedy. The community of Mahdia is close to our hearts; we offer our prayers for the children of Mahdia. You will forever be in our hearts,” the Association uttered.

Support from Caricom nations
Further afield, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Motley, using her social media handle, also shared a message of bereavement.
Motley wrote via Twitter, “The news of the fire at the Mahdia Secondary School in Guyana, which claimed the lives of 19 children late last night, is truly a tragedy beyond words. To @DrMohamedirfaa1 and the people of Guyana, I offer my sincere condolences, and offer my support during this difficult time.”
In addition, Trinidad and Tobago’s Government and Education Ministry also had words of support to share.
“The Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago stand with the Government and People of Guyana in the aftermath of the devastating fire earlier today that claimed the lives of young students of the Mahdia Secondary School in Mahdia, Guyana. Prime Minister, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, has been in direct communication with the President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali, expressing condolences on the terrible loss of lives and has offered assistance when and if required,” A message from the TT Government articulated.
On the other hand, the Twin Island MoE shared via social media, “It is with profound sorrow and a heavy heart that we extend our deepest condolences to Guyana’s Education Ministry, the families, and the entire nation, on the devastating tragedy that took place at Mahdia Secondary School. We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss.
In moments like this, no words can truly express the depth of our sympathy for the families who have lost their beloved daughters, sisters, and friends. The loss of young lives is a loss for the future, and it is a pain that is shared by all of us in the education fraternity.”

Social workers, supplies made available
Meanwhile, other organisations such as the University of Guyana (UG) and the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), in addition to condolence messages, have extended their assistance to those affected.

The CIOG shared that it made a donation to the survivors of the fire through the Civil Defence Commission.
The CIOG donated a large quantity of clothing, hand sanitisers, Lysol wipes, soap and footwear totalling $1.5 million.
“We trust that these items will be of support to the emergency care and need that is at hand currently. We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved parents, families, friends and the school’s management and staff on the passing of a number of students who perished in the fire and for all the students who have experienced this tragedy and in a state of sadness, depression and trauma, we pray the Almighty grant them speedy recovery.
“We also share in the Government’s loss and encourage all to support in any way possible,” CIOG said.
On the other hand, the University of Guyana said it shares the grief and extends deep and sincere condolences on the loss of lives, property and trauma experienced in the Mahdia fire in the wee hours of Monday morning.
“UG’s Social Work Unit in the Faculty of Social Sciences is supporting the Ministry of Education’s Welfare Unit and has reached out to other stakeholders they are collaborating with for practicum to determine how we may support them. Members of the University Social Work Unit are set to accompany a Ministry of Education Welfare team. UG’s Social Work graduates in the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health are on standby to travel.”
It added that UG’s College of Medical Sciences is also mobilising to lend additional medical support at the location so that there are no interrupted medical services including mental health nursing specialists as well as the Amerindian Studies Unit in the Faculty of Education and Humanities.
In addition, the likes of the Guyana Oil and Gas Energy Chamber (GOGEC) are ready to lend support where needed.
“The Guyana Oil & Gas Energy Chamber (GOGEC) mourns with the families of those who perished in the fire at Mahdia. This is an extremely trying period for the entire community.
The Mahdia community’s recovery and healing are important to us at GOGEC and we are dedicated to rendering assistance by giving any essential help and resources. We will work closely with Government and all like-minded organisations to alleviate this pain and suffering to all those concerned,” the GOGEC wrote.
The Mahdia tragedy claimed the lives of 19 children on Sunday night with several still receiving medical attention at various institutions across the country. (Jemima Holmes)