Peru: 26 Dead in Rehab Center Fire

At least 26 people died and 10 were injured as firefighters punched holes through walls to rescue residents trapped inside a rehabilitation center for addicts in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

One resident of the "Christ is Love" center for drug and alcohol addicts in Lima's eastern Zarate district said he was eating breakfast at 9 a.m. local time on the center's second floor when he saw flames coming from the first floor, where the blaze apparently originated.

Gianfranco Huerta told local RPP newsradio station that he leapt from a second floor window to safety.

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

Health Minister Alberto Tejada said the number of deaths had risen to 26 with 10 people injured.

Peru's chief fire fighter, Antonio Zavala, said the fire was of "Dantesque proportions." Firefighters had to punch a hole through a wall with an adjoining building to help the people trapped inside the rehabilitation center.

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

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Television images showed relatives of center residents weeping in front of the building, located in a poor section of eastern Lima.

The cause of the fire is still not known, said Zarate police chief Clever Zegarra.

Local media reported that the "Christ is Love" rehabilitation center sought to use Biblical teachings to help treat addicts.

No representative of the center could be immediately reached for comment.

Peru's fire fighters are notoriously underfunded. All the South American country's firefighters are volunteer and the annual firefighting budget for the entire country is $19 million.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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