TAMPA, Fla. — As soon as the first explosions of fire and ash began raining down on the mountain villages surrounding Volcán de Fuego, Shriners Hospitals International Headquarters was working on a plan to help children in need.
The death toll sadly is rising as activity at the volcano continues. At least 75 confirmed dead and that number expected to go up.
"We’ve talked about doing training of doctors down there for future events, but in this case, these kids literally would die if they don’t find the right treatment,” Jim Rocha the Vice Chairman for the Board of Governors for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa said.
Rocha said there are 40 members of the Shriners Club currently in Guatemala that report to the Tampa chapter. Tuesday afternoon was spent getting all the logistics taken care of to transport several burned children to the pediatric burn center in Galveston, Texas.
“Horrifying, to think about if you live that close to something that can happen so quickly,” Rocha said.
Several years ago Rocha said Shriners International in Tampa worked to bring several children that were severely burned in an orphanage during a fire. Right now, their relationship with Guatemala is strong and they are making sure they can get as many children out as possible.
“Shriners Hospitals is uniquely prepared to respond to a tragedy of this proportion, having specialized pediatric burn hospitals across the country,” said John McCabe, executive vice president of Shriners Hospitals for Children. “We have a deep history of mobilizing to respond to tragedies across the globe and have committed to help these children. We view ourselves as a global force for children and each and every day we bring love to the rescue to children around the world.”
Shriners in the Tampa Bay area have close ties to Guatemala. The Guatemala Shriners are under the jurisdiction of the Egypt Shriners, which are based in Tampa and are also include all members of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando, Citrus and Highlands counties. Shriners International also has its corporate headquarters in Tampa.
The children are expected to be transported by the U.S. Military by Wednesday morning.
June 6 is also Shriners International Awareness Day.
Shriners International founded the hospital system that includes a Tampa hospital as well as the burn center in Galveston that is providing life-saving care for the children burned in this disaster.
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