A fire swept through the home of a Haitian child led by a nonprofit group based in the United States, killing 13 children, health workers said Friday.
Rose-Marie Louis, a child care worker at home, told The Associated Press news agency that she saw 13 bodies of children being transported from the Bible Church Orphanage in the Kenscoff area just outside Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. .
Marie-Sonia Chery, a nurse at the nearby Baptist Mission Hospital, confirmed that 13 children had died.
Louis, who worked at the house, said the fire started around 9 pm Thursday (02:00 GMT Friday) and that firefighters took approximately 1.5 hours to arrive. The orphanage had been using candles for light due to problems with its generator and inverter, he said.
About half of those who died were infants or young children and the others were approximately 10 or 11 years old, Louis said.
Catiana Joseph, a doctor at the Baptist hospital, gave a different account, saying that the victims were between three and 18 years old. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Rescuers arrived at the scene on motorcycles and had no bottled oxygen or the necessary ambulances to transport 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."
Robenty said authorities believed that the bodies of other children remained inside and that emergency workers were trying to remove them on Friday.
Orphanage workers at the scene said they believed there were still two bodies inside.
The Associated Press has reported on a series of long-standing problems in the homes of two children administered by the Church of Biblical Understanding.
The Church of Biblical Understanding lost the accreditation of their homes after a series of inspections that began in November 2012. Haitian inspectors criticized the group for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and for not having enough adequately trained personnel.
Members of the religious group sold expensive antiques in high-end stores in New York and Los Angeles and used a portion of the proceeds to finance homes.
The Associated Press made an unannounced visit to the two houses of the group, with a total of 120 children, in 2013 and found bunk beds with worn and worn mattresses in dirty rooms. Sour air floated through the bathrooms and stairs. The rooms were dark and spartan, lacking comfort or decoration.
The Church of Biblical Understanding, based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, operates two homes for nearly 200 children in Haiti as part of a "Christian training program," according to the most recent presentation by a nonprofit organization. It has operated in the country since 1977. It identifies households as orphanages, but it is common in Haiti for impoverished parents to place children in residential care centers, where they receive varied housing and education for several years, but technically they are not orphans.
"We accept children who are in desperate situations," says the organization in its tax return for 2017, the most recent year available. "Many of them were very close to death when we received them." The nonprofit reported revenues of $ 6.6mn and expenses of $ 2.2 million for the year.
A member of the organization who identified himself only as "Jim,quot; in a phone call sent questions about the fire to his lawyer in Haiti, whom he did not identify.