Nightclub fire kills 28 in Lima
LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- As memorial services were held Sunday for the dead in a fire that swept through a Lima dance club over the weekend, authorities raised the death toll to 28.
Most of the victims died of asphyxiation, the Health Ministry said. Another 50 people were injured in the blaze.
Authorities said the Utopia club had no license to operate, no sprinklers and poorly marked exits. The nightclub was celebrating two months in business Friday night with a zoo-them that included a caged lion and tiger.
Witnesses said that shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday, a fire act -- with flames that reached the ceiling -- was performed near the disc jockey's booth, which was near the main entrance.
Many of the people inside the four-story club thought the fire was part of the act, and applauded and cheered as flames licked the ceiling. When it became apparent the fire had gotten out of hand, club patrons tried without success to douse it by throwing their drinks at it, witnesses said.
In less than a minute, witnesses said the lights went out and dense smoke filled the club. Many of the approximately 1,000 patrons fell on top of one another as they stampeded toward the emergency exits, three of which were poorly marked, fire commander Julio Nicolini said.
The thick smoke initially prevented firefighters from entering the club. After drilling a hole in the roof to allow smoke to escape, the firefighters brought the blaze under control in about an hour.
Nicolini said the lion and tiger died in the blaze.
-- Journalist Claudia Cisneros contributed to this report.
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