International Law

Nightclub fire kills more than 230 people; 4 individuals held for questioning

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Authorities investigating a Sunday nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people in southern Brazil have detained four individuals for questioning—two owners, a member of the Gurizada Fandangueira band and the group’s security chief, officials say.

Approximately another 100 people were injured in the fire, at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, according to the BBC News and CNN.

The owners of the club have released a statement through the Kummel & Kummel law firm. It says: “We are open to all authorities and inspections.”

Questions have been raised about whether the club was properly licensed (the owners say it was) and might have been over capacity at the time of the fire. Reportedly, the fire began when some kind of pyrotechnics being used in connection with the Gurizada Fandangueira show ignited soundproofing in the ceiling, which quickly spread and created heavy smoke before many could escape the building, the Independent reported.

Some news reports also say security guards may initially have slowed or blocked those rushing toward the main exit, not knowing about the fire, in order to obtain payment for drinks. In Brazil, it is a common practice to pay a bar tab when exiting, the BBC explains.

Additional and related coverage: (2008): “With $30M Settlement in R.I. Club Fire, Total Tops $100M in Ongoing Case” (2008): “Chicago Not Liable in 21 Nightclub Deaths; No ‘Willful and Wanton’ Conduct”

CNN (opinion): “We haven’t learned from past mistakes”

New York Times (reg. req.): “Before Dawn, Funerals Begin for Victims of Brazil Nightclub Fire”

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