Mexico nurs­ing home fire kills 16, author­i­ties not rul­ing out ar­son

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SAID BE­TAN­ZOS

A fire en­gulfed a nurs­ing home in north­ern Mexico on Tues­day killing at least 16 el­derly res­i­dents in a pre-dawn inferno that may have been in­ten­tion­ally ig­nited, author­i­ties said.

Another five se­niors had burns and smoke in­hala­tion in­juries while one per­son was listed as miss­ing af­ter the blaze at the “Beau­ti­ful Dusk” fa­cil­ity, which cared for for­mer home­less peo­ple in a ru­ral area of the bor­der city of Mex­i­cali.

“The peo­ple in charge of the fa­cil­ity are look­ing into the pre­sump- tion that there was an in­tent (to set the place on fire),” Mex­i­cali Mayor Jaime Diaz Ochoa told Ra­dio For­mula.

“We have to wait and see what the in­ves­ti­ga­tion comes up with.”

A pos­si­ble mo­tive could have been linked to “prob­lems in man­age­ment within the civil as­so­ci­a­tion” that op­er­ates the nurs­ing home, Diaz said.

News pic­tures showed that the roof had partly caved in.

Mex­i­cali fire chief Fer­nando Rivera said the 4:00 a.m. fire be­gan af­ter a wooden struc­ture was set on fire and the blaze spread.

The fa­cil­ity near the U.S. bor­der had safety mea­sures, in­clud­ing fire ex­tin­guish­ers and se­cu­rity cam­eras, of­fi­cials said. The home was sur­rounded by a fence.

“Thee are sus­pi­cions that are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated due to state­ments by the fa­cil­ity’s own man­agers, who have made an al­le­ga­tion,” said Baja Cal­i­for­nia state in­te­rior sec­re­tary Fran­cisco Rueda.

Few Fam­ily Mem­bers

The nurs­ing home, which had 44 el­derly res­i­dents and ca­pac­ity for 60, was ad­min­is­tered by the Cul­tural So­ci­ety Pro­mot­ing So­cial Wel­fare, a civil group.

Af­ter the fire, 23 el­derly res­i­dents were taken to another nurs­ing home nearby.

Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto tweeted his “deep­est con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the se­nior cit­i­zens who lost their lives in the tragic fire.”

Teresa Or­tiz, who lives near the nurs­ing home and regularly brought food to the res­i­dents, said the smoke woke her up.

“When the smell emerged I looked around but didn’t see any­thing and went back to bed. I thought it was wheat burn­ing,” the 50-year-old said.

When she re­al­ized the nurs­ing home was on fire, she ar­rived at 6 a.m. but “the place was in flames.”

Diaz said that of the 44 el­derly res­i­dents, only 11 had fam­ily mem­bers who reg­is­tered their names with the fa­cil­ity, as many of their chil­dren left to work in the United States.

The tragedy drew com­par­isons to a June 2009 blaze at a state­sub­si­dized day­care fa­cil­ity that killed 49 tod­dlers in Her­mosillo, north­ern Sonora state.

Ac­tivists are still de­mand­ing jus­tice over that case, which trig­gered an up­roar as it emerged that the fa­cil­ity did not meet min­i­mal safety stan­dards.

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