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Peru's health minister vows crackdown in wake of deadly rehab fire

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:50 AM EST, Mon January 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Center operated "outside the law," the minister says
  • 27 people were killed in the fire
  • Many were reportedly trapped behind a locked door

(CNN) -- Peruvian Health Minister Alberto Tejada visited Sunday surviving victims of a fire at a rehabilitation center, promising to crack down on treatment facilities that operate "outside the law."

Twenty-seven people were killed and others were wounded when a fire broke out Saturday at the Christ is Love center in Lima.

"You can supervise someone who has formally asked for permission to operate rehabilitation centers, but you're limited in how you can supervise someone who is hiding," Tejada said.

Speaking at a hospital, the minister called for severe sanctions against those responsible for running Christ is Love, which operated "outside the law," he said. Tejada did not specify what laws the facility violated.

Some 40 people were housed in a small space with only one exit that was locked with a chain, the state-run Andina news agency reported, citing Peru's fire chief, Antonio Zavala. Bypassing the heavy metal door was the biggest challenge in the rescue.

The victims were trapped inside the building and died from asphyxiation, Zavala said.

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

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