Peru says deadly fire before summit may have been intentional

November 30, 2016 11:42 PM EST

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LIMA (Reuters) - A mall fire that killed four people just before a global trade summit in Peru may have been set intentionally, authorities said on Wednesday as they offered a 15,000 soles ($4,392) reward for information about a man recorded by security cameras.

The government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had initially ruled out any foul play in the movie theater fire two weeks ago at the upscale Larcomar shopping mall, which came a day before the leaders of the United States, Russia, China and Japan gathered in Lima for the APEC trade summit.

However, the interior ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it had received pictures and video of a man on the scene when the fire started. The man was "missing, and is being searched for by the police," it said.

Footage provided by the ministry shows a man in jeans and black t-shirt emerging from a building before pausing to look around and then walking away as smoke billows from a large door.

The Larcomar fire outraged Peruvians who said authorities had failed to carry out proper safety inspections at the mall and were too quick to play down the possibility of arson as the APEC summit put the Andean country in the global spotlight.

All four victims of the fire were workers in the movie theater operated by Peruvian company UVK Multicines.

The government said on Nov. 16, as the fire was still being put out, that preliminary evidence pointed to a short circuit sparking flames that spread quickly across flammable sound-proof walls in the movie theater.

U.S. President Barack Obama was planning to stay in a hotel just in front of Larcomar, local media reported. The White House declined to comment on his accommodation in Peru in his last scheduled trip abroad as president.

Obama and other leaders of Pacific-rim countries gathered in Lima for meetings on Nov. 19-20 for the annual APEC summit that aims to liberalize trade in the fast-growing Asia Pacific.

Larcomar is managed by Chilean company Parque Arauco SA. Larcomar and UVK have said they are cooperating fully with investigations by authorities.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Pullin)



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