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Six Children Die in Fire at Malnutrition Center

Tragedy in Zaragoza, Chimaltengo, Guatemala

A tragic fire broke out at a malnutrition and recuperation center. (This photo courtesy LaHora, below)






Six of the seven children died in the fiery tragedy at 'Centro Nutricional de Nuestra Senora del Pilar' in the rural town of  Zaragoza, about 40 minutes northwest of Antigua.  

The Feb 20, 6:30 am fire is suspected to have been caused by an electrical short circuit which caused sparks to ignite furniture and the sleeping children's blankets and clothes. 

On Feb 21,  I (Gregory) visited the Center and met the nuns who run it.  There was a general sense of  heavy sadness in the air, but you could also feel that they were comforted and encouraged by the outpouring of care, concern and donations from the Guatemalan community.

The nuns told me that they have a sufficient supply of food and medicines coming in - so they are not in a dire emergency in that regard. Their main need is for funds to repair the building and to replace furniture, fixtures and appliances. 

Here is a link to local news articles (Spanish)

PrensaLibre Guatemala daily newspaper Highlights in English: A 14 yr-old neighbor girl heard the children crying while the fire was burning. She and others tried to pry off pieces of the roof to save the children. The children could be heard crying and screaming, trapped inside the room, and in their cribs. Then, there were no more cries. Two  teen girls who tried to help rescue were taken to the hospital with severe burns. (Note: they could use help)

The room where the fire started now holds only ashes,  the smell of burned clothes and the memories of the six children who were rescued from (serious) malnutrition most of whom were orphans or had families who could not care for them.

The Center takes in children with severe malnutrition and cares for them until they recover - a period of up to two years. Then the ones with no families are placed in children's homes.

La Hora newspaper - lots of photos here

Entering the tranquil village of Zaragoza, now home to a terrible tragedy. Not the first time, though; three nuns died at this Center in the 1976 earthquake when most buildings were destroyed.

Peaceful rolling hills around Zaragoza belie the sadness this village must bear.


Colorful tombs and mausoleums in the cemetery at Zaragoza, where the victims now lie.

The Center's entrance. The fire chief came in the yellow-green ambulance, still investigating.

Sisters Sor Nelida and Francisca were very warm to me and chatted freely. As I was leaving, the fire chief (far left) wanted to talk to them again.

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Hands Of Hope Ministries

Hands of Hope is a medical mission to the rural indigenous poor of Guatemala.

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