21 killed in Guatemala children shelter fire

Indo Asian News Service

San Jose Pinula (Guatemala), March 9 (IANS) Twenty-one girls died and 37 others were injured in a fire at a children's shelter home in central Guatemala.

The fire broke out at the Virgen de Asuncion home in San José Pinula on Wednesday when the residents were protesting sexual and physical abuse at the shelter, Efe news reported.

Although the staff attempted to extinguish the flames, the fire spread rapidly.

Guatemala official Mayra Véliz said that of the first 19 deaths, 17 were caused by severe burns.

According to preliminary investigation, the fire started after the girls set the mattresses alight during the protest, said the ombudsman for Human Rights, Abde Paredes.

Some 100 people gathered around the area, crying and demanding that authorities identify the deceased and wounded girls.

A witness at the shelter home said authorities "didn't help" the girls on Wednesday and took a long time to react.

Outside the care home, families of some of the children demanded answers and complained about conditions at the centre.