Guatemala Mourns For Children Killed After Fire Engulfed Children’s Shelter; Death Toll Now At 38

By Claire Parker, Parent Herald March 12, 11:20 pm

A fire engulfed a children's shelter in Guatemala, killing a total of 38 children. Many of the kids in the shelter lived there to avoid the abuses in their homes.

Initially, 22 children died but the death toll increased to 29 after a number of girls succumbed to their injuries due to the burns overnight. San Juan de Dios and Roosevelt Hospitals also confirmed the death toll increased to 35, Reuters reported.

The shelter, Virgin of Assumption Safe Hom, is in San Jose Pinula and it is a government-run shelter. The area is 10 kilometers away from Guatemala City.

Twenty-two teenage girls suffered injuries from the fire on top of the 38 victims killed. The fire took place on Wednesday morning and reportedly began during an overnight rebellion in the center when some teenagers started a fire on a mattress while the food was being served.

The shelter was designed to house only 400 but nearly 800 people lived in the institution, Buzzfeed reported. President Jimmy Morales ordered the director of the shelter to be dismissed, as well as the transfer of some of the youths to other facilities since it was already overcrowded. Human rights activists held a vigil earlier this week and made a makeshift memorial outside the shelter to remember those who died.

Some relatives of the children at the center demanded answers from the institution. They said they were not given any information at all.

Even though the deaths made it big in the news, the tragedy highlighted the allegations regarding sexual and other kinds of abuse in the shelter. Other relatives said there are many complaints about how the children were treated. One person claimed her brother was placed in a dark isolation cell and brawls often broke out.

Children under 18 years old who are victims of domestic violence or are found living in the streets are sent at the center via court order. Some kids try to escape the facility due to ill-treatment.

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