Published: Fri, March 24, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Call for prayer as 22 girls die in Guatemala fire

Call for prayer as 22 girls die in Guatemala fire

Distraught parents waited outside hospitals and the shelter, which accepted abused, neglected or homeless children as well as those who had completed sentences at juvenile detention centers. This was a sin committed with these kids, and the Guatemalan government must respond, including the president of the republic, who must respond.

Attorney General Annabella Morfin said children in a protective situation should not be housed with children who have problems with the law and called for an investigation of those responsible.

The orphanage has been criticized for overcrowding, alleged abuse and escapes in the past. In 2013, a 14-year old girl was killed at the facility by another resident, investigators said.

The shelter apparently housed young girls who have previously experienced physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and even those with mild disabilities.

Burnt bodies partially covered in blankets were strewn across the floor of a blackened room in the home, pictures posted to Twitter by the firefighters showed.

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Investigators were trying to determine whether the fire was started by a group that authorities had isolated after the escape attempt on Tuesday night. The president held a moment of silence to mark the tragedy during a previously scheduled event to commemorate International Women's Day.

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.

Plagued by Latin America's worst rates of child malnutrition and street gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha that often prey on minors, Guatemala can be a traumatic place to grow up.

From the information now available, authorities are suspecting the fire started off when minor residents set mattresses ablaze the previous night during attempts to escape the shelter. Almost 10 percent of the triangle's 30 million residents fled over the last decade, mostly for the USA, the Council on Foreign Relations said in a report.

Seven teenagers died from serious burns overnight, lifting the death toll from a fire at an overcrowded children's shelter near the capital of Guatemala to 29.

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