Fatal Brazil fire: Rousseff returns home

2013-01-27 15:40

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Santiago - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile early on Sunday to return home after a deadly nightclub fire claimed almost 200 victims in southern Brazil, an official said.

She was taking part in a summit between the 27-member European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC.

At least 180 people died in the fire in Santa Maria and more than 200 were injured, police and firefighters said.

Sandro Meinerz, a spokesperson for the police, told local media that the fire broke out at the Kiss club while a band was performing.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, officials said.

The total number of victims is also still unclear, civil police and regional government spokesperson Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha.

Arigoni told the radio station a truck carrying 70 bodies had arrived at the municipal sports centre, which was being used as an improvised morgue.

Diario de Santa Maria reported that the fire started at around 02:00.

Rodrigo Moura, whom the paper identified as a security guard at the club, said it was at its maximum capacity of between 1 000 and 2 000, and partygoers were pushing and shoving to escape.

Ezekiel Corte Real, 23, was quoted by the paper as saying that he helped people to escape. "I just got out because I'm very strong," he said.

"Sad Sunday", tweeted Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. He said all possible action was being taken and that he would be in the city later in the day.

Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.

The fire appeared to be among the deadliest in a nightclub since a 2004 fire killed 194 people at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A blaze at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm, Russia, broke out on 5 December 2009, when an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches, killing 152

A nightclub fire in the US state of Rhode Island in 2003 killed 100 people after pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling.

A welding accident reportedly set off a 25 December 2000, fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.

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