City officials probed for negligence over Brazil nightclub fire

SANTA MARIA, Brazil Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:17pm EST

A view of the Boate Kiss nightclub is seen in the southern city of Santa Maria, 187 miles (301 km) west of the state capital Porto Alegre in this handout photo released by the Policia Civil (Civil Police) January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Policia Civil/Handout

A view of the Boate Kiss nightclub is seen in the southern city of Santa Maria, 187 miles (301 km) west of the state capital Porto Alegre in this handout photo released by the Policia Civil (Civil Police) January 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Policia Civil/Handout

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SANTA MARIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Prosecutors in southern Brazil, where 235 people died when a fire ravaged the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria last weekend, are investigating whether city leaders and inspectors were negligent in allowing the club to operate.

The investigation, which is separate from a criminal probe into the causes of the tragedy, comes after police said the club's sole exit was partially blocked and that fire extinguishers and emergency exit lights weren't working.

Investigators say the lapses led to the stampede and consequent trampling and suffocation that killed most of the fire's victims.

"There is a political dimension to what happened," Cesar Augusto Carlan, a public prosecutor for the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the fire occurred, said in an interview on Wednesday.

He said the investigation sought to determine what fault may lie with the city, fire inspectors, and any other enforcement officials who had allowed the nightclub to operate.

In a news conference late Tuesday, Santa Maria's mayor, Cesar Schirmer, said city inspectors visited the club last April after it had undergone remodeling and found no reason to revoke its operating permit.

He said his mind was "at ease" that city hall had "fulfilled its obligation."

Schirmer added: "The establishment, in our view, had no irregularities. If any measures or inspections should have been taken, that was the responsibility of the fire department."

The local fire department, for its part, reiterated in a statement late Tuesday that it was in the process of renewing the club's safety permit when the fire occurred, but that the establishment was authorized to operate in the meantime.

It added, however, that the club appears to have committed several safety violations, noting that it did not have a permit allowing the sort of pyrotechnics that sparked the fire and that regulations require that the exit remain unobstructed, which wasn't the case.

"If there had been a request to use pyrotechnics in the nightclub Kiss, the fire department would not have authorized it," the statement read.

Further details of the tragedy continue to emerge.

Police said one of the club's owners, who with his co-owner is in police custody for questioning, on Tuesday tried to choke himself with a shower hose at a local hospital in a suicide attempt. The owner, identified by police as Elissandro Spohr, told officials he could not bear the strain of the tragedy.

In addition to the two club owners, two members of Gurizada Fandangueira, the band that was performing at the club, also are in custody for questioning. One of the band members, police say, lit an outdoor flare during its show, igniting overhead soundproofing material from which the fire rapidly spread.

None of the four men has been charged with any crime.

Local authorities have revised the death toll from the tragedy to 235, following the death of an injured man in hospital and a recount of the confirmed dead. Late on Tuesday, 121 people remained in hospital, 83 of them on respirators.

Some of those being treated are suffering complications from the toxic chemicals they inhaled during the fire.

(Writing by Paulo Prada; Editing by Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and David Storey)

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Comments (3)
cirrus7 wrote:
“Police say the blaze at the Boate Kiss club in Santa Maria, in southern Brazil, spread within seconds after a flare ignited during a pyrotechnics performance appeared to set the ceiling on fire.”

The ceiling has not yet been declared to be extremely flammable sound insulution, not suitable for any occupied building.
Why not?
Is it possible that the officials in Santa Maria have no clue as to the difference in flammability between what was used and what should have been used (much more expensive)?

From http://www.ceilume.com/ceiling-tile-fire-ratings.cfm
There are two main fire ratings involved with ceiling tiles. The first is based on Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Test No. 723, and is called the Surface Burning Characteristics Rating, or Flame Spread Rating. This rating determines how a building material is going to react in a fire. A good rating (Class A or Class 1) in this test means the material is almost entirely non-flammable (doesn’t burn easily). A bad rating means the material is highly flammable, and should not be used as an interior finish or building component. Most, if not all, counties in the US require a Class A rating for any interior finish or building component.

The second fire rating is called the Fire Barrier Rating. This rating utilizes American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Test E-119, and identifies the length of time an entire ceiling assembly will resist and prevent the spread of a fire. While a ceiling tile alone cannot truly be rated with its own Fire Barrier Rating, it is usually classified with the rating that it CAN achieve when used in a ceiling assembly that collectively has that same rating. For example, if a ceiling tile is given a Fire Barrier Rating of 2 hours, it is meant for use in a full ceiling assembly that also has a 2 hour Fire Barrier Rating.”

Jan 31, 2013 2:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Marcos989 wrote:
How is it possible any business does not have an auxiliary emergency exit in case of fire much less a darkened night-club with lots of people inside?

Are the regulations there that primitive?

Jan 31, 2013 5:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Mr.Tubarc wrote:
‘NULL VOTE IN THE NEXT 236 YEARS’ – ‘each year for each soul wasted’. A challenge suggested by ‘Tubarc’ a PhD scientist thrown in the trash in a similar way like those college students. For justice we need to make Brazil the country of NULL VOTE so the international community understand our suffering, disappointment, and regret about the government we have. The vote is mandatory, so we intend to cancel our votes to show we reject a fake, expensive, inefficient, and corrupt democracy that constantly fails management on public affairs that hurts in the core our human dignity. It is launched this challenge to make SANTA MARIA and KISS NIGHTCLUB the center of change in Brazil revealing our creativity and resolve to make ends meet. If we are so talented on soccer, samba, and carnival, together we can be also the democratic country of NULL VOTE. We need to use this tragedy honoring those erased so vainly as a power for changes and making it happen for the good of us all.

Feb 02, 2013 11:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
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