Brazilian Night Club Fire Kills Celebrants


Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 14:08 p.m. EDT, 29 January 2013

Night Club Dancer, Photo by Bryan GoslineSANTA MARIA, Brazil - There should be no surprise that with only one exit, non-functioning fire extinguishers, flammable material covering the ceilings, no sprinklers, and a club 1,000 people over a capacity, and a bands pyrotechnics, this night at the club would not end well.

At the Kiss nightclub in Brazil, a fire broke out early morning hours of Sunday 27 January 2013, resulting in the deaths of more than 230 people.

Given the magnitude of this tragedy, one would surmise that the club would have prior citations for numerous violations. However, according to reports, this surprisingly was not the case, which has raised many questions regarding safety regulations governing buildings and other commercial and residential buildings.

This tragedy has raised grave concerns for citizens and visitors alike as the country is slated to host both the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

According to the Associated Press, documents have been obtained which included building and fire plan permits. Although the building was technically with compliance, Sunday's fire highlighted the fact that Brazilian codes are not on par with other developed or developing nations which is both a hazard for its citizenry and nearly 5.5 million visits annually according to the ministry of tourism.

In a document obtained by the Associated Press, the club was already at a “medium” risk for having a fire. The club owner was then informed that the nightclub would need to be inspected annually in order to stay open.

Records show that the last inspection was conducted in August of 2011. Fire extinguishers were among the items scheduled to be checked during the next inspection. After the fire it was determined that the extinguishers in the club were non-functioning. Survivors stated that they tried to use the extinguisher when the fire initially erupted but quickly discovered to their horror that they did not work.

Police investigator, Marcelo Arigony, stated in a press release on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 that it was known that the fire extinguishers were not inspected and further, that the models that were used were of inferior quality and in his opinion should not have been used in the club or any other facility.

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Published: 30 January 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

On Sunday morning, around 2:30 a.m., country music band, Gurizada Fandangueira performed at the club. The band is known for using pyrotechnics during their performances; however, the nightclub owners either did not take this into account or decided to take a risk because of the anticipated revenue.

The band’s guitarist told media that the club was packed with an estimated 1,200 to 1,300 people, which matched police observations. This figure greatly exceeds the club’s authorized capacity which was under 700 people.

Also at fault is the band because the pyrotechnics which they use are approved for outdoor use only. Once again, it appears that the use of incompatible flares was driven by economic considerations. The band utilized flares which cost $1.25, whereas the pyrotechnics intended for indoor use were priced at $35.

In Brazil, an exit is only required for every 131 feet. The farthest point from the door in the club was only 105 feet, thus making it acceptable to have only one exit, no sprinklers nor alarms. According to Jaime Moncada, a US-based fire-safety consultant with experience in Latin America, stated “In the US, the club would have failed an inspection at least three ways”. He adds, “…three separate exits would be required; the foam on the ceiling would have to be treated, and it would need sprinklers.

It is clear that Brazil is behind when it comes to fire-safety and prevention; however, after the world’s deadliest night club fire in a decade, changes seem to be coming. The mayor in Santa Maria has ordered all night clubs to be closed for 30-days while inspections were completed and lawmakers consider what legal measures can be instituted to prevent a repeat of this type of tragedy.

Since the fire at the night club, over 60 phone calls have been made to a complaint hotline announcing dangerous conditions at other night clubs, theaters, supermarkets, hospitals, and shopping malls.

Citizens are in outrage and are demanding change is Santa Maria. About 500 protestors stood outside City Hall, chanting, “We want justice!”. Eighteen year old, Elise Parode was amongst the protestors. She expressed, “We want the government held accountable, just like the owners of the bar!”.

Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe
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