By EVENS SANON and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Thirteen children died in a fire at an orphanage outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, a child-care worker said Friday.
Rose-Marie Louis told The Associated Press that she saw 13 children’s bodies being carried out of the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding in the Kenscoff area outside Port-au-Prince.
Louis said the fire began around 9 p.m. Thursday and firefighters took about 1.5 hours to arrive. About seven were babies or toddlers and about six were roughly 10 or 11 years old, she said.
She said the orphanage had been using candles for light due to problems with its generator and inverter. Fire and police officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Associated Press has reported on a long-standing series of problems at two orphanages run by the Church of Bible Understanding.
The Church of Bible Understanding lost accreditation for its orphanage 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 orphanage.
The Associated Press made an unannounced visit to the orphanage’s two homes, holding a total of 120 kids, in 2013 and found bunk beds with faded and worn mattresses crowded into dirty rooms. Sour air wafted through the bathrooms and stairwells. Rooms were dark and spartan, lacking comforts or decoration.
Weissenstein reported from Havana.
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