Latin America & Caribbean

Peru: 26 die in blaze at Lima drug rehab centre

Patients' relatives outside rehab centre, Lima (28 January)
Image caption Relatives of patients waited anxiously outside the Christ Is Love centre for news

A fire at a drug rehabilitation centre in the Peruvian capital Lima has killed at least 26 people, officials say.

Another 10 people were injured at the Christ Is Love centre, which used biblical teachings to treat addicts.

Firefighters said the doors were locked, trapping patients inside; some leapt from windows to escape as flames swept through the building.

Health Minister Alberto Tejada said the rehab centre was not licensed and had twice been ordered to close.

"It was a house they had taken over for patients with addictions and they had the habit of leaving people locked up with no medical supervision," he told the Associated Press.

Interior Minister Daniel Lozada said police were looking for the centre's owners.

"We want them to explain why - at the time of the disaster - there was no one there looking after the centre," he told Peru's RPP radio station.

The cause of the blaze has not been established, but some reports said a mattress was set on fire during a dispute between recovering addicts or as part of an escape attempt.

All the victims were men, and most died of smoke inhalation.

'No way out'

The fire began on Saturday morning when patients were having breakfast at the centre in the poor and densely populated San Juan de Lurigancho district.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBBC's Mattia Cabitza: "The problem was that many patients could not get out of the building because it appears the doors were locked"

Gianfranco Huerta, a patient, said he had to jump from the second floor to escape the blaze.

"The doors were locked, there was no way to get out," he told RPP.

Chief firefighter Antonio Zavala told the Associated Press the fire was of "Dante-esque proportions".

"We've had to use electric saws to cut through the metal bars of the doors to be able to work,'' Mr Zavala said.

Local media said firefighters also knocked through a wall from a neighbouring building to rescue people from the smoke and flames.

Weeping relatives of drug and alcohol addicts receiving treatment there gathered outside the building to seek news of their loved ones.

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