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In Brazil club fire, safety lapses point to graft

Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, January 27, 2013. Photo courtesy of Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agencyPolice have arrested an owner of the Kiss nightclub in Brazil and two band members in connection with the fire Sunday that killed 230 people, most of them students from a local university.

There are no allegations yet of public corruption but there probably will be.

Reports indicate the club in Santa Maria, a city of 250,000, may have been operating illegally in several ways.

Some of club's infractions may have been known to regulators.

Here are some of the allegations (culled from a BBC report):

  • A band member lit a flare on stage. Open flames in a public nightclub are likely against the law.
  • Only one emergency exit was available for the patrons -- at least 330 people were in the club when the fire broke out.
  • Many victims were trapped in the club's toilets, possibly indicating inadequate exit signage.
  • Security guards may have blocked people from leaving the club, consistent with a practice in Brazil to collect tabs when a patron leaves a club.
  • The club was 'in the process of renewing its licence to operate . . . and its fire safety certificate had expired last year.'
  • A band member said when the fire started above the stage, a guard handed him a fire extinguisher that wasn't working.

The fire is among the deadliest nightclub blazes ever, according to

A fire in a China club in 2000 killed 309 people and another in Argentina in 2004 killed 194, the news service said.

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