Ecuador fire: 17 die in rehab clinic blaze started by patients in attempt to escape

President Lenin Moreno vows deaths will not go unpunished

Police closed off the scene of the rehab clinic fire
Police closed off the scene of the rehab clinic fire

At least 17 people died and 12 others were injured when a fire broke out at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.

Police officials said the fire started when clinic patients set mattresses ablaze in an attempt to escape from the facility.

The treatment centre had lacked necessary safety permits, according to Tania Varela, police chief for the Guayaquil district where the incident took place.

The fire department said there was evidence of negligence at the clinic, and police are now seeking the arrest of the owners and operators.

“We regret the loss of 17 human lives in this tragedy, and we reject the negligence of the owners,” the Guayaquil fire department stated.

Makeshift treatment centres are common across Ecuador, and the deadly fire has provoked questions about how such clinics can be properly regulated.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno vowed the deaths would not go unpunished. He tweeted: “My fraternal embrace and endearing solidarity with the relatives of the victims of the fatal fire in Guayaquil.

“Those responsible have already been arrested. We will not allow the death of innocents to remain unpunished. The government is with you!”

Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said the government would “review the rules” governing the operation of the rehabilitation clinics.

Provincial governor Raúl Ledesma Huerta said officials would give the families of the victims “all the support needed”.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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