Investigation continues for hostel fire that killed 40 teenagers in Guatemala

Investigators continued on Wednesday (March 15) to probe the fire that killed at least 40 teenagers at a Guatemalan child protection center as angry Guatemalans protested.

The case has been a scandal in Guatemala, especially after it emerged that the girls had been locked in a classroom after an escape attempt at the Virgen de la Asunción Safe Home. The girls set mattresses on fire to try to get someone’s attention.

The tragedy has angered Guatemalans and put more pressure on the battered popularity of President Jimmy Morales, whose family and party have been peppered with scandals.

On Wednesday, Guatemalans launched a candlelight protest against the government, joining a swell of demos that have occurred since the fire.

A week after the deadly blaze, authorities are still investigating who decided to lock the teens in a room and why no one released them when the fire broke out, human rights prosecutor Jorge de Leon said.

Leon said it is still unknown why no one helped them in time despite the shouting and that they will have to wait for the investigations to proceed “to determine the responsibility of the key of that lock, which is the great question.”

“If the description of the events are as everyone says they were, that people (home personnel) were standing in front (of girls locked in who died) then I said they (trapped girls) only needed to raise their voices to be heard. Not ask for help but shout out for help. That is, if the people (personnel) were there, in front of the room. Then it would be impossible not to hear them (victims),” he told Reuters in an interview.

Fire survivors told investigators they asked for help when the fire was started but they were not rescued, according to recordings published this week by local media.

The tragedy caused the dismissal and arrest of three officials of the Secretariat of Welfare of the Presidency, in charge of the Hogar Seguro center. They are accused of guilty homicide, breach of duties, and abuse of minors. The defendants have pleaded not guilty.


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