At least 232 people were killed in a fire that roared through a Brazilian nightclub Saturday night after a band let off fireworks during its show, police say, with most of the victims dying after inhaling toxic fumes or being crushed under a hoard of panicking people trying to escape.
Most of those who died were college students from Santa Maria, the university town where the Boate Kiss nightclub was located.
1. Most Didn’t Die From Burns From the Fire
The nightclubbers stampeded toward exits that were blocked, and most died from asphyxiation or being crushed in the stampede and not from the fire itself.
2. Bouncers Stopped People from Leaving
Local officials said at least one of the club’s exits was locked and bouncers thought people fleeing were actually trying to skip out on bar tabs and blocked them from leaving.
They didn’t start letting people out until they saw the flames burning on the club’s ceiling, police and firefighters said.
3. The Building Was Almost at Capacity
A security guard disputed earlier reports that there were 500 people were at the nightclub when the fire started at about 2:30 a.m., saying there were more than 1,000. The club has a 2,000-person capacity.
4. Always Scope Out the Exits
People inside the club also had problems getting out because they couldn’t find their way. They confused restrooms for exits, and when they did find an exit door, bouncers wouldn’t let them leave the rapidly spreading fire.
5. The Guards Eventually Tried to Help
Once the security guards realized the building was on fire, they tried to control it with a fire extinguisher while people got trampled running for the doors. Firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up another exit.
6. Always Keep Hold of Identification
Officials moved the bodies to a local gymnasium and separated them by sex, but the men were easier to identify because they had their identification on them, while most of the women left their purses behind.
7. The Party Was Held for College Students
The facility was hosting an event for the local Federal University of Santa Maria in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Most of those attending sere students of that school.
8. The Band Shot Flares at the Ceiling
Witness Michele Pereira told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that she was near the stage, and that the fire broke out after band members lit flares.
The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward. At that point the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak but in a matter of seconds it spread.
9. The Band May Have Also Been Trapped
The group Gurizada Fandangueira, which plays local Brazilian country music styles, was playing. Officials said it was not immediately clear if the band members were among the victims.
10. Faulty Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Cause a Lot of Nightclub Fires
The Brazilian fire joins the many other nightclub fires started by a band’s pyrotechnics, including a 2003 fire at a Rhode Island nightclub that killed 100 people and a Buenos Aires blaze, where 200 people died.