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