A fire swept through a Haitian children’s home run by a US-based nonprofit group, killing 15 children, healthcare workers said on Friday.
Rose-Marie Louis, a childcare worker at the home, told the Associated Press that about half of those who died were babies or toddlers and the others were roughly 10 or 11 years old in the fire at the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding in the Kenscoff area outside Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
Louis, who worked at the home, said the fire began around 9pm Thursday (02:00 GMT Friday) and firefighters took about 1.5 hours to arrive. The orphanage had been using candles for light due to problems with its generator and inverter, she said.
“It could have been me,” said Renadin Mondeline, a 22-year-old who lived in the home with her son, now 6, for about two years until she started making enough money as a street vendor to start renting her own place to live last year. “These little girls inside were just like my baby.”
Rescue workers arrived at the scene on motorcycles and did not have bottled oxygen or the ambulances needed to transport the children to the hospital, said Jean-Francois Robenty, a civil protection official.
“They could have been saved,” he said. ″We didn’t have the equipment to save their lives.”
Late Friday afternoon, police raided another home also run by the Church of Bible Understanding and took away several dozen children in a bus over protests from employees.
The Associated Press has reported on a long-standing series of problems at two children’s homes run by the Church of Bible Understanding.
“‘We are aware of the fire in the children’s home in Haiti,” said Temi J. Sacks, a spokesman for the group, which is based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “It would be irresponsible for us to comment until after all the facts are in.”
The Church of Bible Understanding lost accreditation for its homes after a series of inspections beginning in November 2012. Haitian inspectors faulted the group for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and not having enough adequately trained staff.
Members of the religious group were selling expensive antiques at high-end stores in New York and Los Angeles and using a portion of the profits to fund the homes.