A Toxic Tragedy

The Daily News

 

More than 230 people were killed in a tragic fire that broke out in a crowded night-club in Brazil. The club’s walls were lined primarily with college students who were partying until the early hours on Sunday. The nightclub was located in Santa Maria, a university city of approximately 225,000 people. The fire reportedly began after the band lit fireworks while performing on stage.

The club rapidly filled with smoke, allegedly causing toxic smoke inhalation which resulted in many of those reported deaths. The club’s sole exit was blocked by a stampede of attendees attempting to flee. Firefighters were thus prevented from ensuing rescue activity. With the help of several students, firefighters used sledgehammers to hack away at windows and walls with the hope of providing additional pathways for exit.

Survivor Luana Santos Silv reported “There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic, and it took a long time for people to get out, there were so many dead.” The fire hadn’t begun until band-members pointed the flares upward at the ceiling. The ceiling, which looked to be old and worn thin, could not withstand the heat. The fire spread quickly and firefighters stood little chance to fight back. In addition to the 232 reported dead, 117 people were treated in hospitals, mainly for having inhaled poisonous gases. Others were treated for severe burns.

It seems that the club-owners (in addition to the band) may have a lawsuit on their hands. Doctor Beltrame, a professor at the medical school of the Federal University of Santa Maria, stated that he was told that the club was holding occupants far exceeding its capacity. Beltrame went to the city’s Caridade Hospital to help victims, reported that several of the victims died of asphyxiation; many lost their sense of direction after inhaling the toxic smoke and were unable to locate the exit, ending up in the bathroom instead.

I can’t help but wonder why there was only one exit. I also wonder if the club-owners, who surely thought they would reap financial benefits by letting in more attendees, realize that their negligence is going to cost them the money they hoped to make, and then some.

The world is forced to face yet another tragedy. We can only pray for the families left behind.

SOURCE: The Washington Post

4 comments

  1. Amanda is right in saying that all we can really do at this point is to pray for the families. However, there are issues that need to be addressed immediately. The most shocking part of this story, other than the fact that a nightclub with a capacity for 900 patrons only has one exit, is that the bouncers of this club blocked the exit and refused to let patrons leave until they paid their tabs. These people should be held just as accountable as the owners of the club and the band that started the fire. Emergency lights were supposed to be activated when the fire started, but they were not. Emergency sprinklers were supposed to be activated, but they were not. The club was operating on an expired license. The club did not have an emergency plan. The club was over its capacity by more than 100 patrons. Something needs to be done; these nightclub tragedies cannot continue.
    Had the club owner submitted to inspection to receive a renewed license, perhaps the club would have been forced to put in at least a second exit, as is required by law. Perhaps the sprinkler system would have been checked for faulty operation. This is not a hindsight is 20/20 type situation. This nightclub was a death trap. This is an awful tragedy, but if I lost a loved one in this fire, I would be just as much angry as sad. There is no excuse for what occurred. Fires happen, but that is why there are fire safety precautions and regulations.

  2. Since this horrible tragedy in Brazil, more information about the accident has been reported. I was saddened to find out that many of the club-goers were out celebrating the end of summer because classes resumed this past Monday. New reports have come out that there were at least 2000 people at the club that night, which is double the maximum capacity. Also, many struggled to find the exits in the dark because there were no exit lights over the doors. These are basic safety measures that this club could not adhere to and it makes me worry about how other night clubs or establishments in Brazil are being managed. Brazil is set to host the World Cup next year and then the Olympics in 2016 and I am sure FIFA and the IOC will be putting extra pressure on Brazil to ensure the safety of the athletes, personnel and fans. My heart goes out to the families of the victims and to those people that were injured. I am curious to see how Brazilian authorities will crack down to ensure that such a preventable tragedy does not happen again.

  3. This case reminds me of a case I studied in Criminal Law. The facts are very similar, a nightclub caught on fire and there were insufficient measures in place to not only prevent the fire but to save patrons once the fire started. The owner was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. This case was decided in 1944.

    Brazil cannot allow this type of gross negligence to continue. As its economy continues to grow and make it a larger player in the global market Brazil has to come up to speed with the rest of the international community in terms of safety for its citizens and its tourists. Much like we have done over the decades when we were becoming one of the most influential economies in the world.

  4. Wow, this story caught me by surprise, it should be getting more press in the States. My immediate thoughts while reading were what a terrible tragedy this is, and then I thought about the vulnerability of so many partygoers in clubs all around the world. I sincerely hope club ownership and management in clubs everywhere are taking the necessary precautions that apparently the Kiss higher-ups did not. If this tragedy does anything, it should spark awareness and stricter regulations for all nightclubs.

    I can’t help but feel sorry for the band members as well and what they will face after this tragedy. I don’t know if the club management was notified that there would be pyrotechnics used in the show, but that should be an absolute mandate. However, if in fact the band members solely assumed that the pyrotechnics would be harmless, then they should be held responsible as well. This Laissez Faire attitude by club management and possibly the band is unacceptable. Safety must be ensured for people in such a vulnerable situation as a nightclub atmosphere. Darkness, drunkenness, and disorientation is a recipe for disaster if the strictest precautions are not taken. I feel deeply for the victims and families of the victims.

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