Brazilian Blaze - The Behrend Beacon

Brazilian Blaze

Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 8:13 PM

Author: Sierra Birx (news editor)

As many were celebrating their final day of freedom from school and work, a blaze broke out, cutting the celebrations and many lives, short. It began at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 27 when some 2,000 people in a Santa Maria nightclub began chaotically trying to escape the flames. Of those 2,000 people, 1,000 of them were over the maximum occupancy limit of the Kiss nightclub and at least 230 didn’t make it out. 

While officials in Brazil have not yet ruled on the cause of the fire, they, along with survivors of the tragedy, say that there was a pyrotechnics show going on just before the fire broke out. An accordion player was also performing on the same stage and is among the victims. 

As people were struggling to flee the club’s premises, guards were fighting to keep them in by blocking the doors. The misunderstanding led to more confusion and panic. 

“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 reporter from CNN affiliate, Band News, Glauber Fernandes.

Of the over 230 people whose bodies were found in the club, 185 have been identified thanks to the congregation of the bodies in a nearby gym. Many of those died not from the blaze itself, but from smoke inhalation and crush injuries sustained during the stampede to get out. Many of the bodies were found trapped in the bathroom or trapped by the roof collapse that happened in the midst of the chaos.

Since August, the club’s license was expired, had no exit signs lighting the way out, and very few emergency exit doors. The club owner, band member Gurizada Fandangueira and the club’s head of security have all been arrested by police, according to ABC News. 

Many college students were among the victims of the fire. The Federal University of Santa Maria, a private university in the area, was home to at least 80 of the students killed in the blaze. 

Past pyrotechnic tragedies left 100 people dead in a 2003 fire in Rhode Island and almost 200 dead in a 2004 nightclub fire in Argentina.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was at a conference in Chile when the news broke, prompting her to leave and go back home to support the people of Brazil.

“The Brazilian people are the ones who need me today. I want to tell the people of Santa Maria in this time of sadness that we are all together,” Rousseff said.

As many classes and work schedules resume on Monday Jan. 28, first responders will continues to piece together the night and try to bring relief to the families of the victims.