Children rescued as fire guts West Berbice home

Rayleen Vanlonge-Hughes

A family of four is now homeless after a fire, suspected to be caused by arson, destroyed their home and a vehicle on Monday afternoon at Experiment, Bath, West Coast Berbice, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice).
The fire was seen coming from the upper part of the two-storey building at Experiment, Bath, West Coast Berbice, at about 17:00h on Monday. The wooden and concrete structure was occupied by 26-year-old Inderlall Hughes and his wife Rayleen Vanlonge-Hughes, 24, along with their two children, aged 6 and 3.
Reports are that the couple was experiencing problems and the wife, a medical student, had only recently moved out of the house.
On Monday, the husband was reportedly out imbibing and shortly after he returned home, the house was observed in flames.
It is suspected that the man set the house on fire, with his children trapped inside. A neighbour told this newspaper that one of the kids had to be rescued.
Divisional Fire Officer Kerklan Harry said there was not much the firefighters could have done to prevent total destruction of the property.
He said firefighters from the Onverwagt Fire Station responded and arrived three minutes after receiving the call.
“When they arrived, the building was fully engulfed. They managed to get it under control and eventually get it extinguished but the building was completely destroyed.”
According to Harry, based on initial investigations the fire was maliciously set by a person or persons unknown.
Vanlonge-Hughes, who had returned home on the day of the fire, told this publication that she had left home for classes. However, she received a phone call about the house being on fire.
“I get a call from a colleague who lived in the front street; I was not at home, and she said she heard that my house is on fire. So is say ‘Who do it and where he is’ – that is my husband. I cut off the phone and then I called [a] neighbour who is his aunty and they told me that the house is not on fire.”
The mother of two said she subsequently called another neighbour, who confirmed her worst fear.
She said the neighbour told her that the children were taken to the home of her mother and were safe.
The woman was asked if there was anything to suggest that the fire might be the result of arson.
“I really still can’t say because like I said I was not at home.”
Up to Tuesday afternoon, the woman said she had not heard from her husband. She said one of his sisters claimed to have made contact with him but provided no information.
“I tried to reach out to him but he was robbed Saturday night when he was coming home from the market and his phone, money and documents pertaining to the vehicle were all stolen so there was no way I could have made contact with him. However, she made contact with him, I don’t know,” she explained.
The couple has been living on the reserve at Experiment for the past eight years. They make a living by retailing merchandise, and using the bus to take goods to customers.
Investigations are ongoing. (G4)