A teenager set fire to a mattress in the overcrowded rehabilitation center Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción in San José Pinula, Guatemala. The inhabitants constantly complained about the quality of the food, episodes of violence, and sexual assault in the youth home.
According to CNN, the death toll increased to 31, and the majority of the victims in the place were minors. Nineteen girls were found dead at the scene and the rest died overnight due severe burn lacerations. A cook of the shelter also died, while dozens more remain under treatment at a hospital in Guatemala City.
The wounded arrived in the hospital in the morning, some half naked, with bright pink burns and large pieces of skin that were dislodged from the body.
As reported by AP, it all started with a massive riot. Dozens were trapped and locked in their rooms. Authorities were working to identify the victims, and asked parents to bring pictures, dental records, and details about tattoos and other distinctive features.
A 15-year-old teenager who was taken to Roosevelt Hospital to be treated for minor injuries told the Associated Press that when the protests began at the shelter she had sheltered herself on the roof, fearing that the boys of the center would attack them. The youth home was mixed and some of the inmates had criminal records.
Hours after the fire, the government expressed its condolences to the families of the victims in a statement. The director of the center was fired, according to the announcement.
The home was built to house 500 young people, but at the time of the fire, it hosted at least 800. Among the internees were minors under guardianship of the government after having been abused, as well as young people with criminal records who had served their sentences but had nowhere to go.
This is not the first tragedy of the shelter; in 2013 a 14-year-old girl was killed. Investigators said she was strangled by one of the inmates.