A 14-year-old girl allegedly set her school on fire, killing 20 people, while she was annoyed after a teacher took her phone off her.
The fire broke out just after midnight on Monday in a central Guyana mining town, about 200 miles from the capital, Georgetown, engulfing a female dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School and trapping students.
A top official in the South American country said Tuesday that the suspect, who is among several injured people, was upset that her mobile phone was confiscated.
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She had been disciplined by the dorm administrator for having an affair with an older man, National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia said. He is expected to be charged with statutory rape because of her age.
The student had allegedly threatened to torch the dorm and later set a fire in a bathroom area, Gouveia said.
The fire claimed so many lives because the dorm was locked by the housemaster at lights out to prevent the girls from getting out.
"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 socialize," Gouveia 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."
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All but one of the victims were Indigenous girls aged 12 to 18 from remote villages, CBS reported.
The other victim was the five-year-old son of the 'house mother'.
Firefighters were able to rescue some 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," Gouveia said.
Many of the nine people hospitalised victims are in a serious condition.
Guyana is located between Venezuela and Suriname on the northern coast of South America.
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