Fire at Guatemala orphanage leaves at least 19 dead

Mar 24, 2017, 00:08
Fire at Guatemala orphanage leaves at least 19 dead

Nery Ramos, the head of Guatemala's national police, initially said from the scene that 19 girls were confirmed dead, and later the number rose to 37, local media reported.

In a summons that took place today in Congress with legislators from an opposition party, representatives from the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDG) claimed that the young girls had been locked into a classroom.

She said they had been trying to reduce the number of teenagers and children at the center from 720 around September and October of a year ago to around 580.

Officials transported the injured to the San Juan de Dios General Hospital, officials said.

Police, witnesses and relatives told wire services that the fire started when at least one girl set fire to a mattress, possibly in protest after being kept in the small room for hours.

The state-run Virgin of the Assumption Safe House has always been the subject of complaints about abuse, inadequate food and crowded and unsanitary conditions behind its 30-foot wall. It houses at-risk children who were victims of abuse as well as youths who completed sentences at youth detention centers and had nowhere else to go.

Guatemala City Nine more girls have died from burns after a fire at a home for abused children in Guatemala, taking the death toll to 31.

The UN children's fund in Guatemala said on Twitter it "condemns the tragedy", adding: "These children and adolescents must be protected". An investigation is underway into the cause of the blaze, which happened early on Wednesday in the female living section of the Virgin of the Assumption Safe Home located just to the east of Guatemala City.

Some of those who got away claimed they had been mistreated or sexually abused, while others have reported that criminal gangs are active in the home.

"According to what they say, the bigger kids have control and they attack them constantly, " de Leon said.

"They were serving food to the teenagers when some of them started a fire in a mattress and that's how the fire was set", said Abner Paredes, a prosecutor defending children's rights.

In 2013, a 14-year-old girl was strangled by another resident, investigators said. Investigators said the girl was strangled by one of the other residents.

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