Brazil buries inferno victims as club owner held

January 29, 2013 - 1:08:16 am

Relatives of the brothers Pedro and Marcelo Salla, victims of the ‘Kiss’ nightclub fire, attend to their funeral in Santa Maria, 86km from Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, yesterday.

SANTA MARIA, Brazil: Brazilian police arrested yesterday the owner of the nightclub where 231 party-goers perished in a blaze and two musicians who starred in an ill-fated pyrotechnic show. Authorities announced the arrests as Brazil began three days of mourning following Sunday’s tragedy, which forced the cancellation of an event to mark the run up to the country’s hosting of the football World Cup.

In addition to the arrests, a warrant was issued for another owner of the Kiss club, police official Michele Vimmermann said, as distraught relatives laid wreaths outside the venue in the southern city of Santa Maria. Vimmermann said those in custody were nightclub co-owner Elissandro Sphor and two members of the Gurizada Fandangueira band. The fire broke out at around 2am (0400 GMT) when the club was hosting a university party.

Described as the country’s second deadliest, the inferno allegedly erupted during the group’s performance, with some survivors saying its lead singer lit a firework that could have triggered the inferno.

Allegations also surfaced that the club lacked the necessary emergency exits, that at least one fire extinguisher did not work and, according to firefighters, that its safety licence had expired in August.

But the club insisted in a statement that everything had been in order. In comments to the media, a band member also ruled out responsibility.

As friends and family members bid farewell to their loved ones, officials revised the death toll from 233 to 231 and said at least 100 others remained hospitalized, 80 of them in serious condition.

As dawn broke, collective wakes for 24 of the dead were held at the town’s sports center, followed by the first funerals in Santa Maria — a college town — and the surrounding district, home to many of the city’s students.

As a somber silence hung over the gym, the family of Luis Dias Oliveira draped a flag over his coffin, their eyes swollen and red from crying.

In one of dozens of urns lined up next to each other, were the ashes of Joao Carlos Barellos da Silva who ran a website covering the parties in the club. His lifeless body was found in a bathroom.

“He was a wonderful son. I have never felt such pain,” said his mother, Gelsa Ina Barcelos.

Like Da Silva, about 180 people perished in the bathrooms, suffocating amid the chaos, said military police captain Edi Paulo Garcia.AFP