In a country where firefighters are not just notoriously underfunded, they volunteer where the entire nation’s firefighting budget is only $19 million dollars per year, it is no surprise that a fire killed 26 people and injured 10 others at a 2-story unlicensed and overcrowded private rehabilitation center in the Peruvian capital, Lima on Saturday, officials said. The blaze started around 9 a.m. local time at the “God is Love” rehabilitation center for drug addicts and alcoholics located in the capital city’s poor Zarate district.
The cause of the fire is still unknown and the 10 injured were taken to Lima hospitals, said Zarate police chief Clever Zegarra. Peru’s chief fire fighter, Antonio Zavala, said the fire was of “Dantesque proportions, with most of the people having died from asphyxiation” Gianfranco Huerta, who was being treated at the center, told local radio station RPP that he jumped from the second floor of the center to escape the fire. “The doors were locked, there was no way to get out,” he said. Residents were apparently kept inside like prisoners, Health Minister Alberto Tejada told the Associated Press.
An AP journalist at scene said all the windows of the building were barred that he was able to see. As police cordoned off the block, Journalists were not allowed inside. By early afternoon, all bodies had been removed from the center.
“This rehabilitation center wasn’t authorized. It was a house that they had taken over… for patients with addictions and they had the habit of leaving people locked up with no medical supervision,” Tejada said.
Authorities said they did not know how many people were inside the center at the time of the fire and were looking for the center’s owners and staff, some of whom apparently fled the scene. “We’ve had to use electric saws to cut through the metal bars of the doors to be able to work,” Zavala said.
Read the original article at Allvoices.