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.
Fifteen of the 23 people detained by police who broke up the clandestine party on Saturday night tested positive for COVID-19, 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 break up the event, 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. The 13 victims were 11 men and two women between the ages of 20 and 30.
The 60 police officers who participated in the raid would also be tested for coronavirus, officials said.
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 on Sunday. In an earlier statement the ministry blamed the deaths on the criminal irresponsibility of an unscrupulous businessman.
Vizcarra 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.
Peru had recorded a total of 585,236 coronavirus cases as of Saturday, double the number reported on Jul 2, while the known death toll has risen to 27,453.