HORROR IN BRAZIL: Fire kills 232, hundreds more injured in nightclub blaze
The Boate Kiss nightclub had only one working exit, and the majority of victims were trampled in an attempt to flee, police say. Fire started after someone either in the band or with them set off a flare as part of show.
Firefighters try to put out a fire at the Boate Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil where at least 245 people were killed.
Faulty fireworks sparked a nightclub blaze in Brazil early Sunday that killed at least 232 revelers — many of them trampled to death in a panicked stampede for the exit.
Fire investigators in the southern Brazilian town of Santa Maria said revelers, most of them local college students, were hampered in their escape because the only exit, the main front door of the Kiss nightclub, was initially locked.
“They panicked and ended up trampling each other,” said Col. Guido de Melo of the Rio Grande do Sul Fire Department.
Officials said at least 200 people were injured.
A crowd stands outside the Kiss nightclub as fire burns inside.
“People were screaming and trying to run to the exit,” said Luciene Louzeiro, who made it out of the club alive. “It was horrible. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Witnesses said club security initially tried to prevent people from leaving.
“Some guards thought at first that it was a fight, a huge fight that happened inside the club, and closed the doors so that the people could not leave without paying their bills from the club,” said Glauber Fernandes, a reporter for Band News.
News footage of the disaster showed thick smoke billowing from the club and volunteers trying to assist police and firefighters, using axes and sledgehammers to break windows in hopes of freeing survivors.
A victim of a fire in a club is carried by others who escaped the blaze.
De Melo said firefighters had a tough time entering the club because “there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance.”
A security guard at the club said up to 2,000 people were jammed into the venue, double the maximum capacity. Most of the victims were students from the Federal University in Santa Maria attending at party at the club.
The conflagration was hauntingly similar to the 2003 blaze at The Station in Warwick, R.I., that killed 100 people when the heavy metal band Great White set off pyrotechnics that ignited flammable foam lining the club’s walls and ceiling.
AGENCIA RBS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The death toll climbed to as many as 245 dead, with hundreds more injured Sunday as firefighters searched the charred remains.
Sunday’s fire broke out around 2:30 a.m., when fireworks set off by the band Gurizada Fandangueira went haywire and quickly spread flames through the building’s foam soundproofing material, witnesses said.
“The band that was on stage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward,” survivor Luana Santos Silva told reporters. “At that point, the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak, but in a matter of seconds it spread.”
Rodrigo Martins, a guitarist for Gurizada Fandangueira, said the fire began at the start of their set.
A man carries an injured man.
“We had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning,” Martins said.
Martins said the fire could have been ignited by the band’s “Sputnik” machine, which shoots out sparks for a luminous effect.
“We’ve never had any trouble with it,” said Martins. One of his bandmates, a 28-year-old accordion player, died into the inferno, he said.
A police officer helps a woman next to Kiss nightclub.
Police Maj. Cleberson Braida Bastianello said most victims were overcome by smoke.
“A large amount of toxic smoke quickly filled the room, and I would say that at least 90% of the victims died of asphyxiation,” Bastianello told The Associated Press.
“The toxic smoke made people lose their sense of direction so they were unable to find their way to the exit,” Bastianello said. “At least 50 bodies were found inside a bathroom. Apparently they confused the bathroom door with the exit door.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff went to the ghastly fire scene Sunday, cutting short a trip to the Latin American-European summit in Chile.
GERMANO RORATTO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The victims of a nightclub fire receive medical assistance in the street.
“Who needs me today is the Brazilian people, and that’s where I have to be. It is a tragedy for all of us,” said Rousseff as emergency responders collected bodies from the charred club.
Officials said 120 men and 112 women were killed in the fire.
Families of victims rushed to the club, pleading for information and praying their loved ones weren’t among the casualties.
GERMANO RORATTO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The death toll has continued to climb in horrific Kiss club blaze.
Other family members stormed hospitals looking for relatives.
“Doctors saw desperate friends and relatives walking and running down the corridors looking for information,” said Dr. Paulo Afonso Beltram, who was treating victims at the Caridade Hospital in Santa Maria.
A local gymnasium was turned into a makeshift morgue, where authorities were attempting to identify the bodies.
It was the deadliest blaze in Brazil since a 1961 fire swept through a circus in Rio de Janeiro, killing 503 people.
LAURO ALVES/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Relatives of victims cry after learning of the deaths at Kiss club.
Local Brazilians expressed shock and horror over the tragedy in their homeland.
“They care about the money, not the people’s lives,” said Brazilian immigrant Andre Araujo, 34, a waiter at Ipanema restaurant on W. 46th St. in midtown. “Something has to be done — more checks, more regulations.”
Alline Mioto, 28, who moved to New York from Sao Paulo, said she wasn’t surprised by the tragedy.
“Most of the clubs (in Brazil) aren’t up to date,” Mioto said. “That should be changed.”
Cesar Santos, 33, a Long Island fitness manager, said he comes from the area where the killer blaze occurred.
“It’s horrible that they only had one exit,” said Santos. “It’s just ridiculous. Where are the fire marshals? Where is the fire code?”
With Peter Moskowitz
Long history of deadly nightclub fires:
The Rhythem Night Club blaze on April 23, 1940 in Natchez, Miss., killed 209 people.
Coconut Grove fire in Boston on Nov. 28, 1942 killed 492 nightclubers.
Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Ky., on May 28, 1977, killed 165 people.
Happy Land social club blaze in the Bronx on March 25, 1990 killed 87 people.
The Station nightclub blaze in West Warwick, Rhode Island, occurred during a “Great White” concert on Feb. 20, 2003, killing 100 people.