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Guatemala grapples with a youth shelter inferno

Friday, March 10, 2017 - 01:24

A day after a fire ripped through an overcrowded shelter for abused children in Guatemala leaving at least 33 dead, mostly girls, criticism is mounting about conditions in the home which housed both boys and girls. Jane Lanhee Lee reports.

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A day after a fire ripped through an overcrowded shelter for abused children in Guatemala leaving at least 33 dead, criticism is mounting about conditions in the home which housed both boys and girls. Presidential spokesman Heinz Heimann saying victims of abuse were mixed in with juvenile offenders and parents alleged abuse at the center, including rape, and said gangs operated there. Doctors on Thursday described their shock at the severity of the burns suffered by two dozen victims who were hospitalized, one saying it was, quote "a scene from Dante". The fire broke out on Wednesday as some residents of the government-run Virgen de Asuncion home for youths allegedly set mattresses on fire. Authorities believe the fire was triggered by some minors who had been isolated hours after an attempted escape. More than 500 minors were in the shelter, although Guatemalan media said its capacity was 400. Guatemala has Latin America's worst rates of child malnutrition and street gangs prey on minors, making it an often dangerous place to grow up. The Central American nation's public institutions are underfunded, racked by corruption and widespread overcrowding.

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Guatemala grapples with a youth shelter inferno

Friday, March 10, 2017 - 01:24