Fire Kills 26 in Peru Drug Rehab Center

Locked doors, barred windows trap residents
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 28, 2012 3:05 PM CST
Fire Kills 26 in Peru Drug Rehab Center
Relatives of patients of the "Christ is Love" center for drug and alcohol addicts, react in Lima, Peru, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012.   (AP Photo/Juan Contreras)

A fire swept through a two-story private rehabilitation center for addicts in a poor part of Peru's capital today, killing at least 26 people as firefighters punched holes through walls to rescue residents locked inside. The "Christ is Love" center for drug and alcohol addicts was unlicensed and overcrowded and residents were apparently kept inside "like prisoners," Health Minister Alberto Tejada said.

Officials said most of the victims died of asphyxiation and the cause of the fire was under investigation. "The doors were locked, there was no way to get out," said one resident. An AP journalist at scene said all the windows of the building he was able to see were barred. "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," said Tejada. (Read more Peru stories.)

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