At least 19 die in school dormitory fire in Guyana

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At least 19 children died after a fire gutted a secondary school dormitory in Guyana, officials say.

The building in the central city of Mahdia was "completely engulfed in flames" by the time firefighters arrived around midnight, the Guyana Fire Service said in a statement.

Fourteen children died at the scene and another five in hospital. Six others, including two in critical condition, were airlifted to the capital, Georgetown, while others remained under local hospital care. Some 20 students were rescued.

Most of the 19 children who died were Indigenous, said Mark Ramotar, the director of the police communications department.

"The dorm usually houses students from Indigenous communities," he said.

The youngest of the victims was a five-year-old boy, the son of the dormitory's caretaker. Other victims listed by the Ministry of Education include several sibling pairs and at least one set of twins.

President Irfaan Ali, who met with some parents of the dead after visiting Mahdia's hospital, said in a statement the country will hold three days of mourning, beginning from 4pm local time on Monday (Tuesday AEST).

Police and fire services said they were working to determine the fire's cause.

"According to one of the female students, who managed to escape, she was awakened by screams and ... saw a fire in the bathroom area, which quickly spread to other parts of the building," the police force said in a statement.

Prime Minister Mark Philips and Minister of Education Priya Manickchand also visited the site early on Monday, amid heavy rains in the country.