A teenage girl student has been charged with 19 murders for allegedly starting a fatal fire in a school dormitory in Guyana, reported Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
The 15-year-old girl was charged as an adult on Monday for the deaths of 18 mostly Indigenous girls and a five-year-old boy at a school in Mahdia.
The girl student appeared before the Diamond Magistrate's Court in the capital Georgetown on Monday, Al Jazeera reported, quoting a daily newspaper in Guyana.
It was not required of her to enter a plea to the charges at the hearing, but the court did say that the teen would be held in custody at a juvenile holding centre until further proceedings take place.
"Investigations reveal the student is suspected of having set the devastating fire because her mobile (phone) was taken away by the dorm's mother and a teacher," said police in a statement last week.
The charges were filed as the country continues to mourn the horrific incident that happened late on May 21 at a residential school that mostly educates children from far-flung Indigenous villages.
More than two dozen pupils were hurt in the fire, and one of them was taken to a hospital in New York over the weekend for specialised care. During the fire, the suspect also sustained injuries.
According to a government statement, of the 19 fatalities, 13 could not be "visually identified" as a result of the fire. The government revealed on Friday that DNA testing had been used to verify the victims' identities and that they would be allowed to have their bodies returned to their families, as per Al Jazeera.
Guyana's education minister, Priya Manickchand, has stated that the school's fire safety measures and alarm system are being looked into.
According to National Security Advisor Gerry Gouveia, the dorm administration locked all five doors in the building using keys from the inside to stop students from leaving illegally at night.
One of those killed in the fire was the five-year-old son of the dorm administrator.
Manickchand in a Facebook post on Monday said that social media rumours regarding the tragedy had hurt the victims' family members. She asked individuals to hold off on making claims until they were fully supported by the evidence.
Manikchand said, "Hold off on mouthing off your opinions," adding, "You do not know better than these parents what is good for their children and families," Al Jazeera reported. (ANI)