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Updated: Death Toll Over 240 in Brazilian Nightclub Fire

Death Toll Expected to Climb Higher

Reuters

Update #1: The estimated death count is now up to 245 victims.  Scroll down for details.
Update #2:  Additional details of the tragedy posted.  Scroll down.

A POPULAR NIGHTCLUB PACKED WITH MORE than 2,000 patrons in Santa Maria, Brazil, caught fire early Sunday morning leading to a panic and subsequent deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.

 

The fire began around 2 am local time in the Boate Kiss Club when the band onstage set off a fireworks display inside the huge facility.  That started a fire in the ceiling that filled the arena with heavy smoke and fast-moving fire.  As often happens in these sorts of incidents, the massive rush to the exits caused a pileup of victims.

Associated Press

At the time of this posting the death count had passed 220 with more expected while searches are still ongoing at the scene.  An indoor sports arena has been appropriated for a makeshift morgue and bodies have been reportedly arriving by the truckload.

 

Update #1:
Recent reports are stating that the latest estimate on casualties is 245 dead and at least 200 injured.  Many witnesses are telling the press that the fire started when a performer lit a flare in an apparent effort at a fireworks display.  The fire quickly got into the acoustical foam ceiling and pumped out suffocating, poisonous smoke.  The Associated Press is reporting:

Most of the victims died from asphyxiation and smoke inhalation, police said.

Authorities in the southern city of Santa Maria spent the morning rescuing survivors and wading through the tragic aftermath of one of the most deadly fires in a decade.

"There are so many bodies that we couldn't get all the way to the back of the nightclub," Lieutenant Moisés da Silva Fuchs told local media.

Many of the victims were students at local universities, according to witnesses. Fire officials told the Globo television station that the main door was locked when the fire started, but that was denied by Lucas Cauduro Peranzoni, also known as DJ Bolinha, the resident DJ at the club.

"Everyone was pushing one another," Paranzoni said. "I breathed in some of that smoke and I felt woozy. I collapsed at the door and the security guards pulled me out."

At nightclubs in Brazil, it's common for patrons to accumulate a bar tab throughout the night, which they pay in order to be able to exit.

Update #2:  Additional details have been posted by Associated Press:

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."

Teenagers sprinted from the scene desperately seeking help. Others carried injured and burned friends away in their arms.

"There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic, and it took a long time for people to get out, there were so many dead," survivor Luana Santos Silva told the Globo TV network. The fire spread so fast inside the packed club that firefighters and ambulances could do little to stop it, Silva said.

Another survivor, Michele Pereira, told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that she was near the stage when members of the band lit flares that started the conflagration. "The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward," she said. "At that point, the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak, but in a matter of seconds it spread."

Most of the dead apparently suffocated, according to Dr. Paulo Afonso Beltrame, a professor at the medical school of the Federal University of Santa Maria who went to the city's Caridade Hospital to help victims.

Beltrame said he was told the club had been filled far beyond its capacity during a party for students at the university's agronomy department. Survivors, police and firefighters gave the same account of a band member setting the ceiling's soundproofing ablaze, he said.

"Large amounts of toxic smoke quickly filled the room, and I would say that at least 90 percent of the victims died of asphyxiation," Beltrame told The Associated Press by telephone.

"The toxic smoke made people lose their sense of direction so they were unable to find their way to the exit. At least 50 bodies were found inside a bathroom. Apparently they confused the bathroom door with the exit door."

 

Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.

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Related article from December 5, 2009:  Death Toll Climbing in Russian Nightclub Fire.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.moses.12 Ian Moses

    Sweet Jesus, when will they learn the lesson about using fireworks at this type of venue :(

  • mickf

    It appears the main issues, as always, were:
    -Inadequate or blocked exits
    -overcrowding
    -no control on building/decorative material
    -stupid behaviour
    -compounded by poor access for emergency services
    The situation here in malta is not far different

  • http://www.facebook.com/unekwud Unekwu Daniel

    its so unfortunate to loss precious souls in such a careless way like this, hope lessons will be learn!