January 29, 2012 / 12:00 AM / 8 years ago

Fire kills 26 patients at rehab center in Peru

A woman cries, believing she has lost her son to a fire that occurred inside a rehabilitation center in Lima January 28, 2012. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

LIMA (Reuters) - Fire swept through a rehabilitation clinic for drug addicts and alcoholics in Peru on Saturday, killing 26 patients who were locked in to stop them from fleeing during treatment, local media and witnesses said.

Several survivors said the blaze was started by two patients who wanted to break out of the private “Christ is Love” center in the capital Lima.

“Some inmates wanted to escape and they set fire to some cloths and started throwing them at the manager’s office, and then it caught fire inside,” said patient Wilmer Garcia.

Most of the victims were thought to have died from smoke inhalation.

Lima Mayor Susana Villaran said the center lacked a municipal licence and that “drastic action” was needed to prevent similar incidents in the Andean country.

“This is a great tragedy,” she told local radio. “Families hand over relatives who are suffering drug and alcohol addiction so they can be rehabilitated and often they’re desperate. These places must be supervised by the Health Ministry and municipal authorities.”

Firefighters and prosecutors have opened investigations into the cause of the fire.

Reporting by Patricia Velez and Helen Popper; Editing by Xavier Briand

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