At least four dead in fire at Peru shopping mall opposite hotel for world leaders attending Apec summit
Sound-proof walls in the mall’s movie theatre appeared to be made of flammable materials that allowed the fire to spread rapidly
At least four people died in a fire in a movie theatre at a popular seaside mall in Lima on Wednesday, authorities said, ahead of a global summit bringing together presidents from the United States, Russia, China and Japan this week.
The government of Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said the fire at the Larcomar shopping centre appears to have been started by a short circuit.
The movie theatre was screening the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for journalists.
The victims appeared to be two men and two women, but the bodies were so charred that it would be hard to determine their sex and identities with certainty, Police General Hugo Begazo said.
Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio said that sound-proof walls in the mall’s movie theatre appeared to be made of flammable materials that allowed the fire to spread rapidly.
Witnesses said they had to break down blocked emergency exits to escape.
Kuczynski said that he lamented the tragedy and said the incident merited a thorough investigation.
Larcomar, managed by Chilean company Parque Arauco SA, said it was cooperating fully with authorities and would close the mall for two days.
At least one firefighter was carried away on a stretcher as smoke billowed from the open air mall that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
The shopping centre is across the street from the high-rise JW Marriot hotel where many of the foreign leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit will stay, including US President Barack Obama. The White House declined to comment.
The British embassy in Lima, less than a block from the mall, closed due to a fire in its vicinity, the British government said.
Obama and other world leaders were scheduled to arrive in Peru between Thursday and Friday to attend Apec, an annual gathering of heads of state aimed at promoting trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region.
This is the second time Peru has hosted the annual forum for 21 Pacific Rim economies, which together account for half of global trade and 60 per cent of global GDP.
Additional reporting by Associated Press