13 dead in crush at Peru party raided over coronavirus violations

At least 13 young people suffocated in a crush during a raid on a nightclub in Peru’s capital, where a party was being held in violation of a coronavirus ban on large gatherings, police and press reports said.

“After a police operation in a discotheque in the Los Olivos neighborhood, 13 people have died,” Peruvian police chief General Orlando Velasco told RPP radio.

Twenty-three people were arrested for taking part in what health officials said could be a mass-spreader event; 15 of them later tested positive for the coronavirus, police said.

Latin America has been badly hit by the pandemic, and Peruvian officials this month reimposed stricter curbs on movement and large gatherings.

Peru is the third-hardest-hit country in the region — after Brazil and Mexico — registering 27,453 deaths from the virus since March.

Police tactics disputed

The illegal birthday party on Saturday was organized on social media and drew a crowd of around 120, most of them in their 20s or 30s, to a licensed nightclub called the Thomas Restobar, the interior ministry said in a statement.

“Faced with the police operation, which did not use any type of weapon or tear gas, those attending the party tried to escape through the single exit, trampling each other and getting trapped in the stairway,” the ministry said.

The police action, an hour before a nighttime curfew was to take effect, was triggered when neighbors called police to complain about the illegal gathering.

However, some who were at the party or who live near the nightclub disputed the ministry’s version of events.

“It appears that police entered and threw tear gas canisters at them, and boxed them in,” one local resident told RPP. (AFP)