Brazilian nightclub fire death toll reaches at least 233
By Sayed Jawad - Sun Jan 27 2013, 3:51 pm
At least 233 people died early Sunday in a fire at a nightclub in southern Brazil, according to the authorities of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The fire, apparently started by a rock band’s pyrotechnic effects, raced through a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil hours earlier, filling it within seconds with a thick, toxic smoke that killed at least 233 panicked partygoers who gasped for breath and fought in a stampede to escape.
Television images showed smoke pouring out of the Kiss nightclub as shirtless young men who had attended a university party joined firefighters using axes and sledgehammers to pound at windows and walls to free those trapped inside.
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.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short her participation in the Eurpoean Union-Latin American summit in Santiago, Chile, to travel to the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Santa Maria is located and which is also Rousseff’s home state.
“I wanted to tell the people of our country and of Santa Maria that we are all together at this moment of sadness,” she said. “And we will overcome this, though the sadness will remain.”
Santa Maria Mayor Cezar Schirmer declared a 30-day mourning period, and Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, said that all possible action was being taken.