LIMA • Peruvian government officials condemned the owners of a nightclub after at least 13 people were crushed to death or asphyxiated as partygoers tried to flee a party raided by police because it violated coronavirus restrictions.
At least six were injured, including three police officers, as around 120 people tried to escape the illegal birthday party at the Thomas Restobar club in Lima's Los Olivos district on Saturday night when police arrived to break up the event, which neighbours had reported, national police and government officials said.
"Faced with the police operation, which did not use any type of weapon or tear gas, those attending the party tried to escape through the single exit, trampling over one another and getting trapped in the stairway," the Interior Ministry said.
However, some who were at the party and others living near the nightclub disputed the ministry's version of events. One local resident told RPP radio: "It appears that police entered and threw tear gas canisters at them, and boxed them in."
Local media reported that the victims were in their 20s.
Women's Minister Rosario Sasieta said she was outraged. "It should never have happened. We are in a pandemic, in a health emergency. I am calling for the maximum punishment possible for the nightclub owners," she told RPP.
"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?"
The Interior Ministry said 23 people had been detained and that the authorities are trying to identify the organisers and the owners of the premises.
Peru has recorded a total of 585,236 coronavirus cases as at Saturday, double the number reported on July 2, while the known death toll has risen to 27,453.
A night-time curfew has been in place since March 16, while borders are closed and school classes have been suspended for the rest of the year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS