Brazil nightclub owner arrested after fire tragedy

Tuesday 29 January 2013 15.09
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The Brazilian government has declared three days of national mourning
The Brazilian government has declared three days of national mourning
Policemen leave flowers at the scene of the blaze
Policemen leave flowers at the scene of the blaze
A victim of the nightclub fire in Brazil is carried from the scene
A victim of the nightclub fire in Brazil is carried from the scene
Many of the victims died from smoke inhalation rather than burns
Many of the victims died from smoke inhalation rather than burns

Police in Brazil have arrested the owner of a nightclub in which 231 people were killed in a fire.

Several members of the band whose pyrotechnics shows allegedly caused the blaze were also questioned.

Several coffins lined a gymnasium that has become a makeshift morgue since the fire in the early hours of Sunday.

The death toll was revised down overnight from 233 to 231, as officials said some names had been counted twice.

Another 82 people remain in hospital in and around the southern city of Santa Maria. At least 30 of them are in a serious condition.

As shocked residents attended dozens of funerals, the focus began to shift to what will likely be a barrage of police investigations, lawsuits and recriminations aimed at politicians and others.

Most of the dead were suffocated by toxic fumes that rapidly filled the Kiss nightclub after the band set off a pyrotechnics display, witnesses said.

The Brazilian government has declared three days of national mourning.

State prosecutor Valeska Agostini said one of the club's owners and members of the band had been taken into police custody to answer questions, although no arrests or criminal charges are likely until after the investigation is completed.

The band's guitarist, Rodrigo Lemos Martins, 32, said he doubted the band was responsible for the blaze.

"There were lots of wires (in the ceiling), maybe it was a short circuit," Folha de S.Paulo newspaper quoted him as saying.

The band's accordion player, Danilo Jaques, 30, was among those killed but the other five members survived.

It seems certain others will share the blame for Brazil's second-deadliest fire ever.

The use of a flare inside the club was a clear breach of security regulations, fire officials said,

Witnesses said the club’s security men initially tried to prevent people from fleeing from the one functioning exit because they believed they were trying to skip out on their bar tabs.

Clubs and restaurants in Brazil are generally subject to a web of overlapping safety regulations, but enforcement is uneven and owners sometimes pay bribes to continue operating.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said everything possible would be done to help the families of the victims.

Out of respect for the dead, Brazil has postponed a ceremony today, to mark 500 days to the 2014 football World Cup.