Alert security guards averted a major disaster at the National Cultural Centre last night when suspected arsonists set the building on fire.
According to reports, smoke was seen emanating from the roof of the building at around 21:30 hours, and security quickly informed the Guyana Fire Service, which responded within minutes.
While trying to get the fire under control, firemen found a device suspected to be an incendiary device comprising four cylinders wrapped with tape. It was in a black plastic bag in a corner of the stage.
One security guard told this newspaper that the place was not broken into, but it appears that someone secured himself in the building before it was closed.
According to the guard, another guard saw two men exiting the back door on the bottom floor. He added that, from all appearances, the fire started at the stage.
A fireman said that it appears that someone lit the curtain from the bottom floor and the fire spread to the upper floors.
One of the organisers of Tribute to Mothers, Winfield James, said that it would have been a terrible damage to Carifesta if the place had gone up in flames.
He noted that the damage was limited to the curtain on the second and third floors and part of the stage.
According to him, under the stage there is a lot of padding, and the fire tenders needed to get under the stage to get to the padding.
James said that it is fortunate that the fire was doused before very severe damage could have been caused.
Simone Dowding, a performer, could not hold back her tears. She noted between sobs that just last night (Sunday night) she was performing on the Cultural Centre stage. Firemen were seen ripping out the boards of the stage to get to the padding. Smoke was also emanating from under the stage. The entire building was shrouded in thick smoke.
Culture Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, confirmed that the incendiary device was found, but said that he did not know much about it.
He added that, had the Fire Service not acted quickly, the end result could have been more disastrous.
According to the minister, he does not want to speculate and he urged Guyanese to adopt a positive frame of mind. The minister also said that he does not know if the fire was the work of arsonists.
Minister Anthony noted that Carifesta is still on, and that the National Cultural Centre is one of the most important venues for hosting the event.
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