INTERNATIONAL

Many dead in Lima fire

LIMA (PERU), DEC. 30. A blaze sparked by a fireworks explosion in historic central Lima may have killed more than 100 people, firefighters said today, as residents searched for missing relatives among piles of charred bodies.

The fire, which began after fireworks exploded at a shop near a street market in downtown Lima, swiftly spread through four blocks of apartments and stores. Flames rushed through the three-and four-storey buildings as firefighters and volunteers dragged people from the burning structures. Bodies charred beyond recognition were scattered in the streets and in buildings. Police carried badly burned victims stripped to their underwear in makeshift stretchers made of plastic sheeting.

One firefighter rushed from a building with a baby as people stumbled out into the smoky street, where flames had gutted parked cars. At one point, a dozen people trapped behind security bars on the second floor of a building pushed their arms through broken windows and screamed to be rescued.

The Chief Firefighter, Mr. Tulio Nicolini, said more than 120 people may have died in the devastating fire, which was largely contained 4 1/2 hours after it started.

- Reuters

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