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26 die in Peru rehab fire

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:56 PM EST, Sat January 28, 2012
Relatives grieve for a victim of a fire at a rehabilitation clinic in Lima, Peru, on Saturday.
Relatives grieve for a victim of a fire at a rehabilitation clinic in Lima, Peru, on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 26 people were killed in the fire
  • NEW: A mattress fire may have started the blaze
  • NEW: It may have been a clandestine facility, the fire chief says

(CNN) -- Twenty-six people were killed and 15 were rescued from a fire at a rehabilitation center in Lima, Peru, the state-run Andina news agency reported.

The fire was controlled by firefighters by Saturday afternoon.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, the fire department said, though witnesses said a mattress was set on fire during a melee inside the building.

The victims were trapped inside the building and died from asphyxiation, Peru's fire chief, Antonio Zavala said.

The building may have been a clandestine rehabilitation center, and many people were concentrated on the first floor, which lacked escape routes, Zavala said.

Some 40 people were housed in a small space with only one exit that was locked with a chain. Bypassing the heavy metal door was the biggest challenge in the rescue, he said.

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