Fire Sweeps Through Nursing Home in Chile Killing 10 People

Alejandro ZonezAton Chile via AP

A fire blazed through a nursing home in Chile on Tuesday causing 10 women to burn to death, shocking the country.

The Santa Marta nursing home, located almost 320 miles (520 kilometers) south of the Chilean capital, housed the flames. Authorities are trying to determine the cause of the fire that began around 3 a.m.

According to reports, only three elderly women were saved from the two dormitory rooms that caught fire, one was hospitalized. 10 lives were lost during the devastating fire.

Governer Jorge Uloa, of the Biobion region, said staff at the home checked the room 10 or 12 minutes before the fire “and didn’t find anything.” According to the Associated Press he said the doors to the dormitory were open and in line with the nursing home’s regulations.

Ulloa shared a video of the nursing home in a Twitter post calling the fire tragic.

“The Biobion region is mourning,” he wrote.

A local news station, 24 Horas, showed aerial photos of the women’s wing burned to the ground on their website, only a few metal bed frames are left among the ruins.

“The entire country… is moved by this tragedy,” President Sebastian Pinera said after flying to the site.

He said the deaths “call on our consciences to better care for our older adults.”

Chile’s Tele13reported that all the victims were female residents of the nursing home in the town of Chiguayante.

The station’s website quoted Ulloa, who said none of the other dormitories in the nursing home were affected by the blaze.

He said there were 43 residents at the home during the fire, which has a maximum capacity of 46, according to Ulloa.

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Michelangelo Bianchi, told news media that witnesses reported hearing an explosion similar to the sound of an explosion. A wood-burning stove was found inside the home but with the sound of an explosion, the stove could of had a short circuit, officials said.

Officials said it was lucky the flames did not spread to other dormitories.

Officials released the names of the women to the public Tuesday afternoon as the investigation continues.

The tragedy revived debate in the South American country over the precarious situation faced by thousands of elderly who have seen their quality of life eroded by increased living costs and low pensions.

The country’s President urged Chile to take a deeper look at how they treat their elders.

“I hope that this tragic accident will shake consciences and help us as a society to be more supportive, more affectionate, more welcoming to all our seniors.”