Brazil nightclub fire raises safety concerns


Firefighters try to put out a fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria, 550 Km from Porto Alegre, southern Brazil on January 27, 2012.


Germano Roratto

A lack of basic safeguards may have contributed to the high death toll at a Brazil nightclub that caught on fire on Sunday and killed 245, said AP, going on to ask: 

Why was there only one door available for exit and entry? What was the flammable material in the ceiling that allowed the conflagration to move so quickly? And, more pointedly, why was a band playing at the club allowed to use pyrotechnics inside the building?

At a news conference on Tuesday, Brazilian police inspector Marcelo Arigony said the band lit a flare during their performance which “was for outdoor use only and the people who lit them know that."

Arigony said the investigation will take 20 days. At that time, prosecutors will decide whether to file charges, the AP wrote.

The fire killed 245 university students in the southern town of Santa Maria on Sunday. It remains unclear what started it, but lead inspector Antonio Firmino told AP the ceiling of the Kiss nightclub was lined with a combustible foam that he believes was ignited by the band's pyrotechnics. 

He would not comment on the exact number of exits but described a second (barred) escape door as "inadequate," said AP. Four band members have been detained over the incident, according to Reuters

The fire was one of the nation's worst in over a decade, with inspector Sandro Meinerz telling CNN on Sunday: "It was terrible inside. It was like one of those films of the Holocaust, bodies piled atop one another."

He said many of the young victims had been trampled or suffocated to death. 

The tragedy sparked outrage in Brazil, prompting citizens to call on authorities to reexamine safety codes, conduct more frequent inspections and penalize institutions deemed unsafe.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the burned-out nightclub late Monday to commemorate the dead and to call for change, with marcher Eglon Do Canto telling AP: "We hope that the justice system, through its competent mechanisms, succeeds in clarifying to the public what happened, and gives the people an explanation."

The government's response will be watched closely by the international community as well, with Brazil set to host the World Cup and Olympics next year. 

The nation, meanwhile, is observing three days of mourning, said Euronews.