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More than 200 people perish in Brazilian nightclub fire

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fire swept through the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria in southern Brazil, killing 233 people. Brazilian Health Minister Alexandro Padilha says the number of people killed could have filled a large plane. Of those who perished, 185 have been identified so far.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Workers digging through the charred wreckage of Kiss nightclub listened to the eerie sound of unanswered cell phones ringing, a reminder of friends, relatives and loved ones trying to contact the dead.

"It was really complicated scene. A lot of smoke, a lot of shoes that was left, cell phones, because everybody tried to get out of there running," Glauber Fernandes, a reporter from CNN affiliate Band News said.

"While we were there, we saw the cell phones were ringing. It was parents, friends, trying to know about what was happening and nobody was answering."

Many of those killed died from smoke inhalation, state-run Agencia Brasil reported. Still others were trampled in the rush for the exits.

In addition to the dead, more than 90 people were hospitalized, Padilha said, including 14 patients with severe burns.

Officials say about 2,000 people were inside the club when the fire broke out, which was double the maximum capacity of 1,000, Guido de Melo, a state fire official said.

One question that remains is the accusation that security guards on the premises stopped people from leaving the club.

"People who were inside the facility informed us ... that security guards blocked the exit to prevent people there from leaving, and that's when the crowd starting panicking and the tragedy grew worse," Melo said.

"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," a local journalist said.

Witnesses say that the fire sprang "from out of nowhere" on a stage at the club and quickly spread to the ceiling, witness Jairo Vieira told Band News.

"People started running," survivor Luana Santos Silva told Globo TV. "I fell on the floor."

A pyrotechnics show had been going on inside the club when the fire started. Authorities stopped short of blaming it for the blaze, saying the cause was still under investigation.

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