Death toll of Guatemala children's shelter fire climbs to 39

Protestors demanding justice for Guatemalan teens who were abused and died in a fire at a government-run shelter at National Palace in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Protestors demanding justice for Guatemalan teens who were abused and died in a fire at a government-run shelter at National Palace in Guatemala City, Guatemala.PHOTO: EPA

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) - The death toll in a horrific fire at a government-run shelter for Guatemalan teens has climbed to 39, officials said on Saturday (March 11).

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the residence of President Jimmy Morales, alleging that government negligence at the overcrowded facility where staffers were accused of sexual and other abuse allowed the tragedy to happen.

Some of the protesters carried blue and white Guatemalan flags stained with red to symbolise blood and death.

Three more adolescent girls succumbed to their injuries while being treated in intensive care, according to hospital officials, who said 14 girls are still in their care, including eight in critical condition.

The girls perished in a blaze Wednesday at the co-ed Virgin of the Assumption Safe Home for children in San Jose Pinula, a village just east of the capital.

The fire broke out in the girls' living quarters of the walled facility, killing 19 immediately. The others died later from their burns.

All of the victims were girls aged between 14 and 17, officials said.

The blaze was believed to have been set by girls protesting dire conditions they were subjected to at the shelter, including sexual abuse and other mistreatment by staff.