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Over 230 die in Brazilian club fire

By | Published on Monday 28 January 2013

Club Kiss

At least 233 people have died in a horrific nightclub fire in the Brazilian city of Santa Maria, in the country’s Southern-most region of Rio Grande do Sul. Echoing the fire that occurred at a Great White gig in Rhode Island in 2003, in which 100 fans and the band’s guitarist died, it is thought this weekend’s tragedy most likely occurred after a band set off pyrotechnics of some description.

Eyewitnesses recall seeing the ceiling above the stage at the Kiss Club catching fire after flares were lit by the band. The fire then quickly spread throughout the venue as a packed audience tried to escape the flames. Reports suggest only one small exit was open at the time contributing to the high death toll, with fire fighters having to demolish a wall to rescue those trapped inside.

It is also thought that toxic fumes from burning fixtures inside the venue may have contributed to the problem, disorientating those trying to escape the venue. Firefighters reportedly found in the region of 50 bodies in the club’s toilets, and it’s thought some clubbers mistook doors to the toilet facilities for an emergency exit.

Although reports vary regards the number of victims in the fire, the BBC reports that Brazilian authorities have published the names of 230 of those who died, while three further bodes are still to be identified. A further hundred or so clubbers are still receiving hospital treatment. It is thought the club was hosting an event for local university students, and therefore most of those killed were in their late teens.

Speaking to BBC Brasil, Sergeant Arthur Rigue from the local fire department, said: “I never witnessed a tragedy like this in my whole career. These people are so young… There were many bodies piled up in various parts of the place. Some were in the toilet. They died of asphyxiation”.

In the wake of the tragedy, Brazilian officials announced that they were postponing a ceremony due to take place in the city’s capital to mark the fact it is now 500 days until the 2014 football World Cup, while Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has cut short a visit to Chile to fly to Santa Maria.

The fire and large death toll is likely to throw a new spotlight on the use of pyrotechnics in smaller venues not really equipped to accommodate such effects, and the responsibilities of venue owners, tour managers and artists themselves to be aware of such risks. Since the high profile club fire in Rhode Island in 2003, similar tragedies have occurred in Buenos Aires, Bangkok and the Russian city of Perm.