Call for prayer as 22 girls die in Guatemala fire

Call for prayer as 22 girls die in Guatemala fire

According to statements that have come to light, they were apparently locked up there after having been recaptured by the National Civil Police (PNC) on Tuesday, after a mass escape.

APPHOTO XMC105: Consuelo Garrido lights a candle in remembrance of the victims of a fire at a youth shelter, at a makeshift memorial outside the morgue where the bodies are being identified, in Guatemala City, Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Nineteen girls have been killed by a fire at a children's home in Guatemala. All the victims were aged between 14 and 17.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has called for three days of mourning.

Another prosecutor tasked with protecting children in the country, Harold Flores, told the radio station Emisoras Unidas that since a year ago, complaints had surged from minors who fled the shelter alleging sexual abuse.

Doctors announced eight deaths overnight of residents of the home who had been treated for injuries at hospitals in Guatemala City, and said some 24 more were in critical condition.

"She said the girls themselves set the fire, " he said, adding: "She said the girls told her that they had been raped and in protest they escaped, and that later, to protest, to get attention, they set fire to the mattresses".

On Wednesday morning someone set fire to mattresses in the girls' section of the rural campus, authorities said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Even outside of shelters, growing up can be tough in the Latin American country with the highest rates of child malnutrition, where street gangs often prey on children and teenagers in poorer neighborhoods.

The Virgen de Asuncion home had previously suffered from overcrowding, with Guatemalan media reporting that more than 500 people were crammed into the centre created to house 400.

Overcrowding is a common problem in public institutions in Guatemala, including in particular prisons.

Guatemala is one of the hardest places in the world to be a child.

Outside the home on Wednesday, Andrea Palomo told reporters in tears that she had brought her 15-year-old son to the home to discipline him.

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