Candy Oudkerk

‘sad, hopeless’: Guyanese nationals Candy Oudkerk and her husband, Paul Benjamin, arrange homemade treats for sale on Independence Square, Port of Spain, yesterday. The couple empathised with the parents of 19 children who perished in the dorm fire in Guyana. —Photo: Ishmael Salandy

Guyanese nationals living and working in Trinidad have joined their fellow citizens in mourning the deaths of 18 girls and a boy in the alleged arson attack at Mahdia Secondary School in Guyana, late Sunday night.

Most of the 19 children who died were Indigenous.

The youngest victim was a five-year-old boy, the son of the dormitory’s caretaker.

Reuters reported that all the other victims were girls, and according to a list from the Ministry of Education, include several siblings and at least one set of twins.

The Express spoke with several Guyanese in downtown Port of Spain on Monday afternoon who said they were still hoping to contact their relatives to get more information about the tragedy.

Guyanese vendor Candy Oudkerk, who sells homemade snacks like cassava and plantain chips, and preserved mango on Indepen­dence Square, Port of Spain, said: “I have passed through Mahdia a few times. It’s a mining town. But this tragedy is sad. It’s more in the country. I could not believe the news when I awoke (Monday morning). My heart goes out to the children and parents. I kept thinking it’s a horrible nightmare.”

Her husband, Paul Benjamin, who comes from Georgetown, said: “I have never been to Mahdia, but I know a large number of indigenous people live there. As a parent, you feel it. You can only imagine what the parents of these children are thinking and feeling. It’s sad. Hopeless.”

Soft drink vendor Vanessa Lewis, who lived along the East Coast of Guyana, said: “I am from countryside. It’s sad. I feel deep sorrow. I feel the pain those parents feel will never go away. But it’s a mystery. We can’t question God. He is in control. He knows best.”

About Mahdia town

On October 25, 2018, Mahdia was officially declared the tenth town in Guyana by then-­president David Granger. The declaration ceremony was held in the presence of several mi­nisters of government, regional representatives and mayors.

Granger and then-minister of communities Ronald Bulkan unveiled the plaque on the Mahdia Monument to officially declare the community a town.

Mahdia joined three other new townships: Bartica in Region Seven, Lethem in Region Nine and Mabaruma in Region One. It serves as the capital town of the Potaro-Siparuni Region.

It was the fulfilment of a lar­ger vision of the then-coalition government to establish a capital town in each of the administrative regions of the country.


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