A botched police raid of a nightclub in Peru’s capital Lima left at least 13 people dead and another six injured as panicked clients stampeded toward the exit, authorities said on Sunday.
According to an Interior Ministry statement, about 120 people were gathered for a party inside the Thomas Restobar in the Los Olivos district, despite the current ban on social gatherings due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Around 9 p.m. local time Saturday, “personnel from the National Police’s Green Squad were alerted by the neighbors” to the illegal gathering and went to investigate.
“Faced with the police raid, which did not use any type of weapon or tear gas, those attending the party tried to escape through the only exit door, getting trampled and trapped between the door and a staircase in the premises,” the ministry said.
Three of those injured were police officers “who were trying to free and help the trapped people,” the ministry added.
“The Interior Ministry deeply regrets the death of 13 people as a result of the criminal irresponsibility of an unscrupulous businessman, and extends its deepest condolences to their families,” the statement said.
Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra lamented the incident, saying “I am sorry and sad for the people and the families of the people who lost their lives.”
Vizcarra said he felt “anger and scorn” toward those responsible because “they are risking the lives of people” for profit, and called for “a rigorous investigation, and a fine for the owners and organizers of such events that will serve as an example.”
The president noted gatherings are temporarily banned to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, which has infected some 585,236 people and killed 27,453 in Peru, according to the Health Ministry.
Officials arrested 23 people, and are looking to identify the owners of the club and the party organizers. Of the 23 people arrested, 15 tested positive to a rapid COVID-19 test, said Vizcarra.