CARACAS (Reuters) – At least 11 young Venezuelans died in a fire in a cane field where they were hunting rabbits, as they tried to find food amid wide-spread shortages, authorities and locals in western Aragua state said on Friday.
The fire started on Thursday afternoon in the rural district of Cagua, outside the city of Maracay, according to Douglas Rico, director of Venezuela’s CICPC forensic police. Rico said authorities were investigating if the fire was accidental or arson.
“There was a strong wind that changed the direction of the flames and they were trapped by the fire,” Rico said on state television.
Aragua’s governor, Rodolfo Marco, told a news conference that the boys, all aged between 10 and 18, died from second and third degree burns. Two other boys remain hospitalized.
Farmers often burn cane fields in the region this time of year during harvest, authorities said, and locals try to catch animals as they run out of the undergrowth to escape the flames.
Venezuela’s economy has collapsed over the past five years, with prices rocketing daily due to hyperinflation, and many people struggle to afford basic necessities like food and medicine.
Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Additional reporting by Mircely Guanipa and Tibisay Romero; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Marguerita Choy