Peru: Fire in Lima rehab kills 26

A fire ripped through a two-story rehabilitation center in Peru’s capital on Saturday, leaving at least 26 people dead, the Associated Press reported.

The “Christ is Love” center for drug and alcohol addicts is in one of Lima’s poorest areas, and was unlicensed and overcrowded, according to Health Minister Alberto Tejada, the AP reported. He said residents were kept inside “like prisoners.”

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The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although witnesses said a mattress was set on fire in front of the building during a fight, CNN reported.

Firefighters controlled the fire by Saturday afternoon, after punching holes through the walls to rescue patients locked inside. Firefighters said getting through the heavy metal door was the biggest challenge, CNN reported. Fifteen people were rescued and six are currently in critical condition.

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"The doors were locked, there was no way to get out," said Gianfranco Huerta, a resident of the center, the AP reported. He said he jumped out of a window to safety

It is likely it was a clandestine rehabilitation center, and many people were concentrated on the first floor, Peru fire chief Antonio Zavala said, CNN reported. AP correspondents at the scene said all of the windows in the building they were able to see were barred. Many of the people pulled out of the fire were shirtless and shoeless, with blackened faces.

"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, the AP reported.

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