Nightclub fire in Brazil claims 233 lives

A fire in a nightclub in Santa Maria in the South Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul last Sunday caused at least 233 deaths and 130 injured.

Most of those who died were suffocated by fumes and others were crushed in the panic to escape.

The fire began at about 2.30am during the performance of a group whose fireworks ignited the foam sound-proof ceiling. The fire quickly spread through the nightclub which became a death trap.

The club has only one emergency exit and the security staff only allowed people to leave when they saw flames engulfing the ceiling. Apparently, the licence to operate the club expired last August.

The bodies were carried to a local gymnasium which was used as a temporary morgue and some of them remained unidentified.

According to Reuters news agency, local authorities said that 120 men and 113 women died and when the fire broke out there were 400 people inside the building. According to fire-fighters, the panic began when the nightclub bouncers initially tried to hold back customers in the club.

The club’s manager said in a statement that he is willing to cooperate with authorities and added that his staff are well trained and prepared to deal with any kind of emergency.

Over the weekend, authorities detained four men – two of them owners of the venue and two performers whose pyrotechnics caused the fire.

State authorities also said that detentions were “temporary” and were part of the investigation.