13 children are killed while fire sweeps through the US-run orphanage in Haiti where candles were used for light due to a broken generator
- Bodies were carried from the orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding
- The orphanage at Port-au-Prince is run by a church in Pennsylvania
- Rescuers say that children ‘could have been saved’, but due to a lack of equipment
Thirteen children were killed in a fire in a Haitian orphanage that had used candles for light due to generator problems.
Childcare worker Rose-Marie Louis said she saw 13 children’s bodies being executed from the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding in Kenscoff, outside the capital Port-au-Prince.
Mrs. Louis said that about seven of the victims were babies or toddlers and the rest were 10 or 11 years old.
There is fear that the death toll could increase with more bodies that may still be stuck, with rescuers trying to get them back today.
Thirteen children were killed in an orphanage fire outside the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince (file photo)
Mrs. Louis, the childcare worker, said the orphanage had used candles for light due to generator and inverter problems.
She said the fire started around 9 p.m. on Thursday and claimed that it took firefighters about 90 minutes to arrive.
Rescue workers arrived on motorcycles but did not need bottles of oxygen or ambulances to take the children to the hospital, said Jean-Francois Robenty, a civil protection officer.
“They could have been saved,” he said. “We didn’t have the equipment to save their lives.”
Marie-Sonia Chery, a nurse at nearby Baptist Mission Hospital, confirmed that 13 boys and girls had died.
Robenty said officials believed other children’s bodies were staying inside, and rescuers were trying to remove them this morning.
Orphanage workers on site said they believed there were two more bodies inside.
The Church of Bible Understanding, based in Pennsylvania, manages two homes for nearly 200 children in Haiti as part of a “Christian training program.”
The church lost accreditation for its orphanage after a series of inspections that began in November 2012.
Haitian inspectors accused the group of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and insufficiently trained personnel.
An investigation by the Associated Press in 2013 found bunk beds with faded and worn mattresses crammed into dirty rooms.
The rooms were dark and lacked comfort or decoration, with sour air flowing through the bathrooms and stairwells.
The church has been active in Haiti since 1977. It identifies the houses as orphanages, but it is common in Haiti for poor parents to place their children in such centers.
“We include children who are in a desperate situation,” the organization said in its 2017 tax return, the most recent year available. “Many of them were very close to death when we took them.”