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16 dead in retirement home blaze

A fire swept through a Mexican retirement home for poor people, killing 16 elderly residents and leaving five others seriously injured.

The blaze happened at the Hermoso Atardecer (Beautiful Sunset) retirement home outside the northern border city of Mexicali, which is across the border from Calexico, California.

Mayor Jaime Diaz Ochoa said the cause of the blaze was being investigated by the state prosecutors' office.

The mayor's office said 12 fire extinguishers and eight smoke detectors had been found at the home and that the facility in a rural area about a half-hour drive from Mexicali had not been overcrowded.

Mr Diaz Ochoa said 23 residents had been taken to a temporary city shelter and would be referred to a city elderly care centre. He said most were apparently over 75.

The nursing home housed poor, abandoned or formerly homeless elderly people and was run by the non-profit Cultural Society for the Promotion of Social Welfare.

In its government registration page, the group lists one of its functions as "giving humanitarian assistance to low-income elderly people in need, including food, shelter, clothing and medical care".

Susana Marisol Tapia, a former volunteer at the home, said the administrators "do a great job, with a lot of dedication and sacrifice".

She said: "What has happened is a tragedy that will surely hurt the beautiful work that they do, and that's a shame."

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