Ministry says takes full responsibility for fire that claimed lives of two brothers

Two children between the ages of four and six died this morning after a fire swept through the Drop-in Centre on Hadfield Street.

The police today said that Antonio George, 6 yrs and Joshua George, 2 yrs, perished in the fire.

The police said that investigations have so far revealed that fire began on the western section of the upper flat and as the fire engulfed the building, Antonio George and Joshua George were trapped in the lower flat. Their bodies were later found among the debris.

Investigations are continuing.

Fire Chief Marlon Gentle told Stabroek News today that 28 children and two adults were rescued from the building. He said that the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) got a call about the fire two minutes after midnight. On arrival, the upper part of the building had already been engulfed. Firemen immediately sprang into action and began rescuing those who were inside.

He said that the GFS will be seeking the help of the Government Electrical Inspector in the investigation.

The centre is run by the Child Care and Protection Agency and usually houses children who are in difficult circumstances.

The centre was also hit by a fire in February, 2010 in which the upper portion was destroyed. The centre was then rebuilt.

President David Granger today said he was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic fire, which took the lives of the two children, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency.

The President said that he also has in his thoughts the other children, who depended on the Centre, which is administered under the Child Care and Protection Agency, for shelter and support and who are, no doubt, traumatised by that horrific experience.  He said that he will work with the Ministry of Social Protection to ensure that counselling services are provided to the 28 children, who are now housed at the Sophia Care Centre.

The Ministry of Social Protection this afternoon issued the following statement:

The  Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) , Ministry of Social Protection wishes to extend its heart-felt sympathy to the George family following last evening’s fire which tragically claimed the lives of Antonio George, 2 and Joshua George, 6.

Antonio and Joshua and their other three siblings were taken into care Wednesday 6th at about 5:30 by the Child Protection Agency (CPA) pending investigation into alleged neglect and abuse. As is customary, the CPA took the CHILDREN for medical attention on the 7th and the medical certificate issued confirms that they children are victims of neglect and maltreatment

The Ministry of Social Protection takes full responsibility for this incident and will bear the full cost of the funeral arrangements.

In the long term, the Childcare and Protection Agency will work with this family to ensure the other three siblings, and their ailing mother, receive all the support and help they need.

The Guyana Fire Service (GFS) is still conducting investigation to determine the cause of the fire which destroyed the upper flat of the Hadfield Street Centre which housed 31 children.

The Drop In Centre was recently refurbished and a fire extinguisher installed, with advice form the Guyana Fire Service, the Centre also acquired fire blankets and a fire alarm system.

Under the Centre’s improvement plan, the laundry room was redone; a hot and cold shower system for the children was installed; a pressure pump was set up for use; the kitchen and laundry room were redone and the interior and exterior of the entire concrete and wooden structure were also repainted.

Ironically, the handing-over ceremony for the just-renovated boys’ dorm was scheduled for today. Ironically too, a family member of the deceased brothers was also scheduled to meet with CPA officials for the five children to be placed in family-based care with support from our foster-care programme.

The other 29 children from the Drop-in Centre are housed at the Sophia Care Centre and the Half Way Home, located in the Care Centre’s compound and are currently receiving therapy  provided by specialists from the Georgetown Hospital.