Investigators in Guyana believe a fire that killed 19 people, mostly girls trapped in a school dormitory, was deliberately set by a student who was upset that her mobile phone was confiscated, an official said.
The suspect, who is among several injured people, had been disciplined by the dorm administrator for having an affair with an older man, National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia said.
The student allegedly threatened to torch the dorm and later set a fire in a bathroom area, Mr Gouveia said.
The fire late on Sunday raced through the wood, concrete and iron-grilled building after it had been locked for the night by the dorm administrator — or house mother — to prevent the girls from sneaking out, Mr Gouveia said.
“She did this out of love for them. She felt she was forced to do so because many of them leave the building at night to socialise,” he told The Associated Press.
“This is a very sad situation, but the state is going to work with the students and the families to provide all the support they need.”
All but one of the victims were indigenous girls aged 12 to 18 from remote villages served by the boarding school in Mahdia, a mining community near the Brazil border
The remaining victim was the five-year-old son of the house mother.
Many of the victims were trapped as the building burned, though firefighters were able to rescue people by breaking holes through one of the walls.
“The house mother was asleep at the time inside the building but panicked and could not find the right keys to unlock the building from inside but she made it out. She also lost her five-year-old child in the fire,” Mr Gouveia said.
Many of the nine people hospitalised are in serious condition.
Police were expected to charge the man who had the relationship with the student with statutory rape because she was under 16, Mr Gouveia said.

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