More than a dozen killed in Peru nightclub crush as police raid clandestine party
By Marco Aquino
LIMA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - More than a dozen 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.
The public prosecutor's office said on Sunday that 11 of the 13 dead tested positive for COVID-19. Fifteen of the 23 people detained by police who broke up the clandestine event on Saturday night also tested positive, President Martin Vizcarra said.
At least six others 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 evacuate the party, which neighbors had reported, national police and government officials said.
The partygoers had become trapped between the only entrance door, which was pushed closed in the chaos, and a staircase leading to the street, police said.
Government officials clarified on Sunday that the 13 victims were 12 women and one man between the ages of 20 and 30, after initially reporting the victims as 11 men and two women.
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.
The club's owners, a married couple, were detained, the Interior Ministry said.
Representatives of the nightclub were not immediately available to comment.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that police did not use tear gas or firearms in the raid, after some family members of victims told local radio station RPP that officers used tear gas at the scene.
Vizcarra condemned the club's owners and said similar clandestine events were common, and posed a serious threat to public health.
"I have sorrow and I have sadness for the people and relatives of the people who have died, but I also have anger and indignation for those who were irresponsible by organizing this type of event," Vizcarra said at a public event on Sunday. "Please reflect, let's not lose more lives due to negligence."
The 60 police officers who participated in the raid were also being tested for coronavirus, officials said.
Peru had recorded a total of 594,326 coronavirus cases as of Sunday, more than double the number reported on July 2, while the known death toll has risen to 27,663.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Chizu Nomiyama and Diane Craft)
((Cassandra.Garrison@thomsonreuters.com; +54 11 5830 7443;))
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