LIMA (Reuters) - At least 13 people were crushed to death or asphyxiated as partygoers tried to flee a Lima nightclub after it was raided by police for hosting a party in violation of coronavirus restrictions.
At least six were injured, including three police officers, as around 120 people tried to escape the Thomas Restobar club in Lima’s Los Olivos district on Saturday night as police arrived to break up the event, which neighbors had reported, national police and government officials said.
The club’s owners, a married couple, were detained, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday. In an earlier statement the ministry blamed the deaths on the “criminal irresponsibility of an unscrupulous businessman.”
The partygoers had become trapped between the only entrance door, which was closed, and a staircase leading to the street, police said. The 13 victims were 11 men and two women between the ages of 20 and 30.
Peru ordered the closure of nightclubs and bars in March and banned extended family gatherings on Aug. 12 to fight what is Latin America’s second highest COVID-19 infection rate, according to a Reuters tally. A Sunday curfew is also in effect.
Peru’s women’s minister, Rosario Sasieta, called for harsh penalties for the club’s owners.
“I ask for the maximum sanction for the owners of this place, which has really been irresponsible, and we are talking about a malicious homicide for profit,” Sasieta told journalists during a visit to the site on Sunday morning.
“Knowing that there is a health emergency, knowing that not even at home you can meet with relatives who do not live there, you have the irresponsibility of opening a place for 120 people to enter?” Sasieta added.
Representatives of the nightclub were not immediately available to comment.
At least 23 partygoers were detained by police as part of their investigation, the interior ministry said.
Peru had recorded a total of 585,236 coronavirus cases as of Saturday, double the number reported on July 2, while the known death toll has risen to 27,453.
Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chizu Nomiyama
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