Fire at Venezuela nursing home kills eight elderly residents

Relatives embrace after a fire at an old people's home in Caracas on Aug  23, 2015.
Relatives embrace after a fire at an old people's home in Caracas on Aug 23, 2015.PHOTO: AFP
An elderly man is helped after a fire at an old people's home in Caracas on Aug 23, 2015.
An elderly man is helped after a fire at an old people's home in Caracas on Aug 23, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

CARACAS (AFP) - A major fire ripped through a private nursing home in Venezuela's capital Caracas on Sunday, killing eight elderly people, the authorities said, calling it "a miracle" there were not more victims.

Firefighters were able to rescue more than 30 others and the local mayor praised neighbors who raced to the Chivacoa Seniors' Center as it was engulfed in flames and thick smoke.

"Unfortunately there are eight victims, three were burned to death and five suffocated," Ramon Muchacho, mayor of the upscale Chacao district of Caracas, told reporters at the scene.

At least 10 elderly people were treated for smoke inhalation but were not thought to be seriously ill.

"It is miraculous that more than 30 elderly people have been evacuated and rescued," added the mayor, saying that a short circuit appeared to have sparked the blaze.

Ms Fanny Araujo, 68, told AFP that the fire broke out when she and other residents of the nursing home were getting ready for bed.

Anguished relatives gathered at the home, eager to find out the fate of loved ones.

Mr Muchacho said police and firefighters were investigating, but accused the nursing home of not providing enough staff, and said some fire extinguishers were not working.