monday, 28 january of 2013

Brazil mourns Santa Maria nightclub fire victims

Santa Maria club fire

Brazil mourns Santa Maria nightclub fire victims

At least 233 people have died in a fire that swept through a nightclub in a university city in southern Brazil.

Websites around the world reported the nightclub fire.

Local media say the fire began when a band let off fireworks at the Kiss club in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul.

Many victims reportedly inhaled toxic fumes or were crushed as panicking clubbers tried to escape.

Bereaved families have been weeping over the coffins of their loved ones at a gym used as a temporary mortuary.

Out of respect for the dead, Brazil postponed a ceremony due on Monday in the capital, Brasilia, to mark 500 days to the 2014 football World Cup.

The first funerals in Santa Maria are expected on Monday morning, local newspaper Diario de Santa Maria reports.

Authorities have released the names of 230 of the victims, with three bodies still to be identified.

According to Brazilian broadcaster Globo, most of the victims were aged between 16 and 20.

More than 100 people were being treated in hospital, mostly for smoke inhalation.

President Dilma Rousseff, who cut short a visit to Chile, has been visiting survivors at the city's Caridade hospital along with government ministers.

She said earlier that everything possible would be done to help the injured and the families of the victims.

"I would also like to say to the Brazilian people and to the people of Santa Maria that we stand together at this time, and that even though there's a lot of sadness, we will pull through," she said, speaking from Chile.

A firefighter told BBC News he had never seen such a tragedy in his life, with the victims "so young".

The priority for the authorities is now to identify the dead with many distressed relatives arriving at the scene, but in the hours ahead the focus will turn to the cause of this accident and safety procedures at the club, the BBC's Gary Duffy reports from Sao Paulo.

The death toll, which had earlier been put at 245, was revised down by fire officials.

(Published by BBC - January 28, 2013)

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