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230 dead in nightclub blaze
January 28, 2013, 4:40 am


A victim of the fire is carried in Santa Maria city, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil. [AP]

A massive fire claimed at least 230 lives and injured 200 others after a pyrotechnics malfunction at a nightclub in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria – an investigation is now underway.

Santa Maria is near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, some 300km west of the state capital of Porto Alegre.

Victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled, said Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira,  a member of the military police that was overseeing rescue efforts.

He said there were as many as 500 people inside the club when the fire broke out – mostly teenagers and college students.

Police Major Cleberson Braida Bastianello said officials counted 232 bodies that had been brought for identification to a gymnasium after the blaze erupted early on Sunday.

Police official Sandro Meinerz told the Agencia Estado news agency that manslaughter charges could be filed against the band, at least one of whom died in the fire, or their crew.

Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, Brazil’s cancelled a series of meetings she had scheduled at a summit of Latin American and European leaders in Chile’s capital of Santiago.

She headed to Santa Maria where she visited the make-shift morgue for the fire victims.

She was visibly moved by the sight of the bodies and tried to console the grieving families, according to the Brazilian foreign ministry.

“It is a tragedy for all of us. I am not going to continue in the meeting [in Chile] for very clear reasons,” she said before arriving in Santa Maria, where she met with families of the victims.

Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, told the Reuters news agency the blaze started when a member of the band or its production team ignited a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling. The fire spread “in seconds”, Sousa said.

Guido Pedroso Melo, commander of the city’s fire department, told the O Globo newspaper that firefighters had a hard time getting inside the club because “there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance”.

Source: Agencies