Arrests in Brazil nightclub fire, funerals begin
Brazilian police say they've made three arrests and are seeking a fourth person in connection with a nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people.PT1M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dhfh 620 349 January 29, 2013
BRAZILIAN authorities have called for a rapid investigation into a fire that killed hundreds of young party-goers, bringing President Dilma Rousseff to the verge of tears and sending the nation into mourning.
At least 233 people were killed at the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria after a band's pyrotechnic display set the building ablaze about 2am. More than 90 more people were taken to hospital.
''People were screaming and trying to run to the exit,'' Luciene Louzeiro, a survivor who was near the stage when the fire started, said in a television interview. ''It was horrible. I've never seen anything like it.''
Rescue workers investigate the burnt-out Kiss nightclub in Brazil. Photo: AFP
Firefighters responding to the blaze on Sunday had trouble getting inside because bodies partially blocked the club's single entrance.
Television images showed black smoke billowing out of the club as shirtless young men who had attended a university party joined firefighters using axes and sledgehammers to pound at windows and hot-pink exterior walls to try to free those trapped inside.
Bodies were strewn in the street and panicked screams filled the air as medics tried to help. Officials said most of those who died were suffocated by smoke within minutes.
Within hours, bodies were lined up on the floor of a community gym, partially covered with black plastic, as family members identified kin.
Outside, police held up personal objects as people seeking information on loved ones crowded around.
Another survivor, Michele Pereira, told the Folha de S Paulo newspaper she was near the stage when members of the band lit flares that started the conflagration. ''The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward,'' she said. ''At that point, the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak, but in a matter of seconds it spread.''
Guitarist Rodrigo Martins told Radio Gaucha the band started playing at 2.15am ''and we had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning''.
''It might have happened because of the Sputnik, the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks. It's harmless, we never had any trouble with it.
''When the fire started, a guard passed us a fire extinguisher, the singer tried to use it but it wasn't working.'' One member of the band died, while the other five made it out safely.
Andre Diefenbach, an official with the municipality's police department, said some of the victims perished as they attempted to reach the club's doors, while others died after running into the toilets.
Some of the club's security guards might have initially stopped people leaving the premises, he said. In Brazil, club-goers normally pay for their drinks on their way out.
Ms Rousseff cut short her participation in a summit of Latin American and European leaders in Santiago to visit the scene to console families of victims, according to the presidential website. ''It is a tragedy for us all,'' Ms Rousseff said in Santiago, choking back tears.