At least 16 elderly residents have been killed and another five injured after a fire engulfed a nursing home in northern Mexico. Authorities have said the blaze may have been started intentionally.
The inferno tore through the "Hermoso Atardecer" (Beautiful Sunset) home at 4 a.m. local time (1100 UTC) on Tuesday. The facility, administered by the Cultural Society Promoting Social Welfare group, cared for former homeless people near to the US-border city of Mexicali in northern Mexico.
According to fire services, the blaze began after a wooden structure was set on fire and spread across the nursing home.
"The people in charge of the facility are looking into the presumption that there was an intent [to set the place on fire]," Mexicali Mayor Jaime Diaz Ochoa told Radio Formula on Tuesdsay.
"We have to wait and see what the investigation comes up with," Diaz said, adding that a possible motive could have been linked to "problems in management within the civil association" which operates the nursing home.
The mayor's office reported on Tuesday that 12 fire extinguishers and eight smoke detectors had been found at the home and that the nonprofit facility, which had a capacity for 60 residents, had not been overcrowded.
At least 16 of the center's 44 residents were killed in the blaze. Another five were taken to hospital after suffering serious burns and smoke inhalation. Most of the elderly residents were reportedly over 75 years old.
Following the fire on Tuesday, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto took to Twitter to express his "deepest condolences to the families of the senior citizens who lost their lives in the tragic fire."
"This will not go unpunished, though we have to see what started the fire," Baja California Governor Fernando Vega de Lamadrid said.
ksb/bw (AFP, AP)