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Hundreds Die in Brazilian Nightclub Fire

brazilfire632A fire swept through the packed nightclub “Kiss” in Santa Maria, Brazil, killing more than 230 people on January 27.

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Santa Maria, Brazil (CNN) — Souls rose to heaven symbolically Monday night, when marchers in this southern Brazilian town remembered those who perished in a nightclub inferno during a packed concert.

The mourners, wearing white, released 231 white helium balloons into the sky — one for each life lost.

They hope there won’t be more.

Eighty three more victims lie hospitalized — 75 of whom could forfeit their lives to the severe burns and smoke inhalation they suffered when the Kiss nightclub went up in flames Sunday, authorities said.

Violinists accompanied the procession of grief. Some marchers wept openly; Others recited prayers for the dead.

Piecing together what habrazil-fire-2ppened

Police have arrested four people — the band’s vocalist, the show producer and the club’s two owners.

They’ve also questioned 20 others to gain deeper insight into how the fire began and why it killed so many. Lawyers for the club’ say they are cooperating fully.

Kiss was filled to twice its legal capacity, when a crowd of 2,000 people packed the club to hear the band Gurizada Fandangueira play.

About 20 minutes into the concert, the musicians ended a song with pyrotechnic effects. The ceiling caught fire, state officials said. It spread fast.

The crowd panicked, breaking into a stampede, and it hit a bottleneck — the only exit was the front door, down a dark, narrow hallway. It clogged quickly.

A stampede for safety

Mayara Peirera, a 21-year-old law student who was celebrating her birthday at the club, told CNN she escaped with a friend through the door.

“I saw people bleeding, fainting, running over other people,” she said. “People desperate, screaming.”

Two friends — “almost sisters to me” — didn’t make it out, Peirera said.

“I can no longer cry, because I have already cried so much.”

Bouncers watching the door halted the concertgoers at first, not knowing what they were running from.

“When I was trying to get out, the staff stopped me, and I yelled ‘fire, fire,’” said survivor Matheus Vargas. “But the security guards did not realize what was going on.”

The roof collapsed, trapping the crowd inside.

Bodies were found later packed into the bathrooms. They may have been seeking another way out, a back door that did not exist.

People on the street could hear victims screaming inside. They tried to tear down the club’s thick outer wall with bats and sticks — in vain.

Survivors turned back to tear others through the cramped doorway, yanking some out by their hair.

Remembering the dead

Inside the scorched, ransacked club, 231 bodies sprawled across the floor.

One of them was Leandra Toniolo, 23, her friend Michele Pereira told local paper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Toniolo was in the bathroom, when the flames ravaged the club.

Pereira knew she couldn’t save her.

“I was on the opposite side, near the stage,” Pereira said. “I would have had to go all the way across the arena — against the mayhem — to find her, and in the tumult, it was impossible.”

By the time Toniolo’s mother found her daughter’s body, it had been placed with others on a truck, Pereira said.

Calls for justice

After the balloon release Monday, the sadness turned to outrage with repeated cries of “Justice!”

No expense will be spared in the investigation, said Tarso Genro, the governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

It will include an assessment to see if the club was fit to operate, an expert analysis of the fire and eyewitness accounts, the state’s police said.

The club’s license had expired in August and had not been renewed, a local fire official told Globo TV.

The owners, however, said the nightclub was properly permitted and had been inspected by the fire marshal.

Hordes of mourners left flowers outside the club, as official grieving continues through Wednesday.

The flag outside the presidential palace is flying at half-staff.

By Monday’s end, the dead were buried.

All 231 committed to the soil.

Santa Maria, Brazil (CNN) – Police arrested four people Monday in connection with a nightclub fire that killed 231 people in southern Brazil, CNN affiliate Band News reported.

Two are club owners, and the other two members of the band that was performing, it said.

The detainees will be held initially for five days while authorities investigate Sunday’s blaze in the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, according to Marcos Viana, a police official who spoke with state-run Agencia Brasil.

The five-day period can be extended forbrazil-pic five more days, the news agency said.

“We concluded that it was necessary to hold them prisoner temporarily, because we need their statements to help us clarify the incident,” Viana said, according to Agencia Brasil.

Police did not identify those arrested.

“We have much work ahead to clarify what happened and identify those responsible,” Viana said, according to the news agency.

Civil police in Santa Maria have questioned 20 other people, it said.

The police chief in the province of Rio Grande do Sul said the investigation is to be divided into three parts: “The first line of inquiry has to do with the documentation: if the property was fit for operation and who the owners are. Are they real, formal owners? We will review all the documentation. The second stage of this investigation is expert analysis, which we will apply. And thirdly, important in itself, is the witness testimony. So, starting today, we will focus our efforts to the maximum in order to hear those people who were at the property at the time that it caught fire, at the business establishment. I think we’ll get to the bottom of this investigation and, if possible, will identify those responsible by the time we complete this police investigation.”

The governor of Rio Grande do Sul promised that investigators would have all the resources they need to find out who is responsible.

“From the executive office, they will not lack a penny, a document, an action or any other support, so that we can have an inquiry with depth and with the responsibility that it deserves,” Tarso Genro said.

More than 100 clubgoers were injured in the fire, which authorities say began about 2:30 a.m. Sunday during a band’s pyrotechnic show.

Guitarist Rodrigo Lemos Martins of the Gurizada Fandangueira band told the newspaper Folha de São Paulo that the fire ignited one song after the band had used fireworks in the show. But he said it was not clear what may have caused the fire. “There were many wires on the ceiling, and there could have been a short circuit,” he said.

Many apparently died from smoke inhalation; others were trampled in the rush for the exits.

Michele Pereira told Folha de São Paulo that her friend, 23-year-old Leandra Toniolo, was in the bathroom when the fire began.

“I was on the opposite side, near the stage,” Pereira said. “I would have had to go all the way across the arena — against the mayhem — to find her, and in the tumult it was impossible,” she said. “It was terrible, a scene from a horror film. … There were fallen bodies throughout on the ground, many people who had fainted, many crying and trying to breathe with all that smoke.”

By the time Toniolo’s mother found her daughter’s body, it had been placed with others in a truck, Pereira said.

The nightclub owners have pledged to cooperate with the investigation, according to a statement released by the law firm of Kummel & Kummel.

“We are open to all authorities and inspections,” said the statement, obtained by Globo TV.

The club’s license had expired in August and had not been renewed, a local fire official told Globo TV.

The owners, however, said the nightclub was properly permitted and had been inspected by the fire marshal.

The city’s mayor, Cezar Schirmer, said the fire department “has always done a very strict surveillance on the homes of shows and dealt with all other issues that relate to security of these places.”

On Monday, the first of Brazil’s three days of mourning, flowers were left outside the club in tribute to the victims, and a flag outside the country’s presidential palace flew at half-staff.

In Santa Maria, mourners lined up in a series of funeral processions, and coffins were lined up in a gymnasium that authorities had turned into a morgue.

By noon, 40 of 110 funerals planned for the day had been held at the city’s municipal cemetery, its chief of staff told Band News.

At one funeral, air force troops fired rifles in tribute to a comrade who died in Sunday’s fire.

At another, two teenage brothers, the only children in one family, were buried side by side.

Of the people who were hurt, 82 were still in area hospitals; 40 were taken four hours east to the city Porto Alegre, BandNews TV reported.

The governor of Rio de Janeiro sent 15 mechanical ventilators, Agencia Brasil reported.

SANTA MARIA, Brazil (KTLA) — The nightclub fire in Brazil has claimed at least 232 lives and injured dozens more.

KTLA reporter Jim Nash talked to local officials to see if a similar tragedy could happen in Los Angeles.

SANTA MARIA, Brazil (KTLA) — The nightclub fire in Brazil has claimed at least 232 lives and injured dozens more.

The tragedy brings back memories of similar fires here in the U.S. in recent years. Jim Nash reports.

SANTA MARIA, BRAZIL (CNN) – A fire swept through a popular nightclub in southern Brazil on Sunday (Jan. 27), killing at least 245 people.

The death toll was expected to climb as firefighters continued to pull bodies from the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria.

Most of those killed appeared to have died of smoke inhalation.  Hundreds are believed to have been injured, though an exact count was not immediately available.

Many people were trampled in the panic to leave the club.

The Kiss nightclub is popular with young people in Santa Maria, drawing between 2,000 and 3,000 people a night on the weekends.

The blaze broke out during a weekend when students were celebrating the end of summer.  Students at many Brazilian universities return to school on Monday.

Families and friends searching for information were outside a nearby sporting complex, where bodies were taken for identification.

The fire started at about 2 a.m. after the acoustic insulation in the Kiss nightclub caught fire.

There was a pyrotechnics show 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.

The incident was reminiscent of a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island where pyrotechnics used by the heavy metal band Great White ignited a blaze that killed more than 90 people.

Pyrotechnics were also involved in a 2004 night club fire in Argentina that killed 194 people, and a 2009 explosion at a night club in Russia that left more than 100 dead.

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