At least 19 children have died in a fire in the central Guyanese mining town of Mahdia, officials say.
The fire broke out just after midnight Monday, engulfing a high school and trapping students.
Emergency services are struggling to contain the fire due to poor weather conditions, the government says.
Initial investigations suggest the fire may have been started maliciously, police say – although no suspects have yet been identified.
Earlier reports had recorded that the death toll was slightly higher, with at least 20 lives lost.
Several other people have been injured and some are being prepared for evacuation to the capital Georgetown, where a special center has been set up.
“This is a big disaster. It’s terrible, it’s painful,” said Guyana’s president, Irfaan Ali.
Ali was quoted by AFP as saying that as well as medical teams stationed at the airport, Georgetown’s two major hospitals would be prepared “so that every child who requires attention is given the best possible opportunity to receive that attention”.
Home Secretary Robeson Benn is at the crash site and the Prime Minister and other government officials are on their way there.
“It is with a heavy heart and pain that the Cabinet is informed and kept updated about a terrible fire at the college in Mahdia. Every effort is being made to have a full-scale medical evacuation supported response,” the government’s Department of Public Affairs. Information said in a statement.
Guyana is located between Venezuela and Suriname on the northern coast of South America.