Guatemala arrests three over fire that killed 40 at shelter

People protest demanding justice for the girls killed in a fire at a state-run shelter, at Constitution Square in Guatemala City on March 13, 2017

Guatemalan authorities probing a fire that killed 40 teenage girls at an overcrowded shelter have arrested three sacked officials from the social welfare ministry and charged them with manslaughter, the government said Tuesday.

The three officials, who were arrested Monday, were also charged with mistreating minors in connection with the blaze last week, prosecutors said in a statement.

The arrests came after President Jimmy Morales fired the entire top leadership of the ministry, which is in charge of running homes for abandoned and troubled children in destitute and gang-ridden Guatemala.

The minister for social welfare, Carlos Rodas, tendered his resignation on Monday.

The fire broke out Wednesday in the Virgin of the Assumption Safe Home for children, just to the east of Guatemala City.

A total of 19 girls died at the scene, and the others later in hospitals as they succumbed to horrific burns.

All the victims were aged between 14 and 17.

Seven survivors remain in critical condition. Five have been sent to Texas for treatment.

Morales said Monday he has asked the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and other foreign organizations to help investigate the fire.

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