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SANTA MARIA, Brazil: A police investigation into a Brazilian nightclub fire that killed 231 people and left dozens in critical condition turned yesterday to whether key evidence has been hidden.
Authorities have taken four suspects into custody following the tragedy early on Sunday at the Kiss discotheque in the southern college town of Santa Maria, described as the second worst inferno in the country’s history.
Those detained Monday include two owners of the club and a pair of musicians who allegedly took part in an ill-fated pyrotechnic show being blamed for sparking the blaze.
But with many questions still unanswered, police yesterday were probing whether security cameras had recorded what happened and whether the place — packed with college students — was overcrowded.
“The video cameras weren’t in the nightclub (where they were supposed to be) and there was no computer with memory for storage,” prosecutor Veruska Agostine told reporters.
Some survivors claimed the vocalist of the Gurizada Fandangueira band lit a firework that may have triggered the blaze, which broke out at around 2.00am on Sunday. Police were trying to pinpoint who brought the fireworks to the club and activated them.
On Monday, police chief Marcelo Arigony told reporters: “The place may have burned down because of the firework and because the door was not wide enough for people to leave.”
The club had only one exit and was blocked by steel barriers that made it difficult to get out. Some 180 bodies were found in the bathrooms, which many panicked party-goers had apparently confused with emergency exits.