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Fire at Guatemala Children’s Shelter Kills Nearly 20

Photo

Family members waited for information after a fire at the Virgin of the Assumption Safe Home in San José Pinula, on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Credit Saul Martinez/Reuters

At least 19 people have been found dead at the scene of a fire in a shelter for children near Guatemala City, a spokesman for Guatemala’s volunteer fire departments said on Wednesday.

The spokesman, Mario Cruz, told the radio station Emisoras Unidas that firefighters were still extinguishing parts of the morning blaze.

But he said that so far 19 bodies had been found and about two dozen people were being treated for injuries.

Dr. Carlos Soto, the director of the Roosevelt Hospital, where some were being treated, said the most severe cases, all apparently girls, had suffered life-threatening burns.

The shelter has been criticized for overcrowding, suspicions of abuse and escapes in the past.

The prosecutor for children’s rights, Abner Paredes, said initial reports suggested the fire started when some residents started setting fire to mattresses in the shelter, known as the Virgin of the Assumption Safe Home.

There were reports of escape attempts on Tuesday at the shelter, which was created to house children who were victims of abuse, homelessness or who had completed sentences at youth detention centers and had nowhere else to go.

While the shelter was built to house 500 children and adolescents, it held an estimated 800 at the time of the fire.

Source: NYT > World

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