A fire that swept through the two floors of a drug rehabilitation centre in a poor part of Peru’s capital has killed 27 people and seriously injured another five. Firefighters punched holes into the walls of the facility in an attempt to free residents locked inside. The country’s Health Minister, Alberto Tejada, said the facility, called the “Christ is Love” centre, was an unlicensed and overcrowded facility for alcoholics and drug addicts and that resident were kept “like prisoners”. Authorities told reporters that 26 people died at the scene on Saturday night and that one of six men hospitalised in critical condition later died. There is still a chance that the five remaining hospitalised patients, who are in critical condition, could die.
Antonio Zavala, Peru’s fire chief, said the majority of the deaths were due to asphyxiation and that as far as they could tell, all the victims were male. Police chief Clever Zegarra said the cause of the fire was under investigation and that there had been talk of both an object such as a mattress being burned causing the fire, and the fire being the result of a fight. Mr Zegarra was quick to highlight that this was all speculation at the moment and that the exact cause of the fire was unknown. One resident in the facility said that he was eating breakfast on the second floor, when the fire started around 9am and that he leaped from the window to safety. He highlighted that the doors were locked and that for many “there was no way out”. People at the scene of the fire reported that all visible windows appeared to be barred.
Authorities have said that they are unsure of how many people were in the facility at the time of the fire. Highlighting that the facility was not authorised, they said they were looking for the owners and staff of the facility, some of whom apparently fled the scene. The facility had repeatedly been complained about by local residents and had been closed by authorities twice.