People in Guatemala have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of 35 young girls from a blaze at a shelter.
From the information currently available, authorities suspect the fire started residents set mattresses ablaze the previous night during attempts to escape the shelter. While 19 girls lost their lives on the scene, others were rushed to nearby hospitals where they died.
Investigators believe the girls who tried to escape the facility were recaptured by the police and may have been locked in a small room when the fire erupted. Investigations to determine if this is true are still underway, according to Mayra Veliz, general secretary of the attorney general’s office.
“There were 52 girls in that room, and if someone locked the doors, the consequences are serious,” said human rights official Hilda Morales.
Further questions about the incident are being raised as firefighters and police officials, who were supposed to reach the scene urgently, appeared 40 minutes late. The reason behind this delay is still being looked into, as the two are blaming each other.
According to investigations, only three of the 64 security cameras at the shelter were in working condition when the tragedy took place. The facility that held the capacity for around 500 people at max was housing around 700-800 young adults.
"I am hurting as a mother because she does not deserve this. I gave her advice. I hope that it is not her," said one mother, Carolina Juarez, whose daughter was in the home.
The shelter apparently housed young girls who have previously experienced physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and even those with mild disabilities. While some of them are abandoned or addicted to drugs, others are victims of human trafficking according to the Guatemalan government.
Such an incident occurring at a shelter facility leaves huge question marks on the government’s ability to protect its youth, particularly females who often fall victim to human trafficking and abuse.
Check out the video above to learn more about the tragic incident.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Saul Martinez