Latin America & Caribbean

Peru fire: Rehab centre owner charged with murder

A man mourns his relative, a victim of a fire at a rehabilitation centre in Lima
Image caption Funerals have begun for those killed in the fire

The owner of an addiction rehabilitation centre in Peru where 27 people died in a fire on Saturday has been charged with murder.

Raul Garcia, whose son died in the fire, and one of his deputies handed themselves in to police on Sunday.

Officials say the Christ is Love clinic was unlicensed and lacked fire extinguishers and escape routes.

A court also ordered the detention of two other men who looked after security at the clinic.

One of the wanted men is still a fugitive.

'House of God'

Meanwhile, the first funerals have begun for those killed in the blaze.

"What I feel is sadness for my son and for all of the people going through this," Roxana Lopez, the mother of one of the victims, told Reuters news agency.

The few survivors of the fire said they were locked inside the centre when the fire broke out.

Some had to jump from windows to escape as flames engulfed the three-storey building.

Before handing himself in to police, Mr Garcia told journalists that he was innocent and that the clinic was a "house of God".

The centre used Biblical teachings to treat dozens of people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.

The accident has prompted calls for better regulation of such clinics in Peru - only one in five is believed to be functioning with a licence.

Officials are also investigating whether recovering addicts were held at the centre against their will or subjected to abuse.

Health Minister Alberto Tejada has said that the centre had twice been ordered to close.

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