Five people died and another two were injured Friday when a small motel burned down in the rural community of Puriscal, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the Costa Rican capital.

The Health Ministry said that on Dec. 19 he declared the Las Aguilas Motel uninhabitable due to the disrepair of its wooden construction and electrical system, and set Jan. 30 as the latest date for shutting it down, but the owner, who is wanted by police, refused to close it.

The fire began at 1:24 a.m. local time (0724 GMT), apparently from a short circuit, and spread rapidly, fire chief Hector Chaves said.

The motel guests had little time to escape, Chaves said, adding that one of the bodies was found just a few meters (feet) from the exit.

The injured were taken in grave condition to hospitals in San Jose.

Las Aguiles Motel was surrounded by a number of tents that were also damaged by the fire, which took two hours to put out.

Residents told the media that the motel owner escaped across the roofs of neighboring establishments. EFE