Brazil police blame toxic foam for 235 deaths in nightclub

SANTA MARIA Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:39pm EST

Maria Cristina Dias de Mattos (L), the mother of military doctor Daniele Dias de Mattos, a victim of the fire at Boate Kiss nightclub, places a flower over her coffin as her granddaughter Anna Carolina is comforted by a relative during the funeral at a local cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Maria Cristina Dias de Mattos (L), the mother of military doctor Daniele Dias de Mattos, a victim of the fire at Boate Kiss nightclub, places a flower over her coffin as her granddaughter Anna Carolina is comforted by a relative during the funeral at a local cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, January 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pilar Olivares

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SANTA MARIA (Reuters) - A highly flammable foam was responsible for the death of 235 people in a nightclub in southern Brazil last weekend, filling the venue with a thick poisonous smoke within three minutes, police investigators said on Thursday.

The toxic soundproofing foam, responsible for the illnesses of many survivors, may have been the Kiss club's greatest hazard, according to police in Santa Maria, who also faulted broken fire extinguishers and a single, obstructed exit for the tragedy.

"If it weren't for this material, no one would have died," said Santa Maria police chief Marcelo Arigony, holding a piece of foam, which was installed without a flame retardant coating. "In parts of the club without the foam, almost nothing burned."

Police are investigating whether city officials were negligent in allowing the club to operate. As part of a separate criminal investigation, police have also detained the club's owners and two members of the band, suspected by police of starting the blaze with a cheap flare early Sunday morning.

Santa Maria's mayor and fire officials have traded blame for an irregular operating license and expired safety plan at the club. On Thursday, the mayor suspended the licenses of all the city's nightclubs and music venues for 30 days.

A nationwide crackdown on unsafe nightclubs also gathered steam, as Brazil's most populous state, Sao Paulo, and its capital city signed an agreement for the joint inspection of bars and clubs. On Wednesday alone, authorities inspected 300 establishments in the state of Sao Paulo.

The hazardous foam used to dampen sound inside the Kiss club could claim more lives yet.

Many who escaped the blaze have since fallen sick from the toxic fumes they inhaled, putting 138 people in the hospital on Thursday, up from fewer than 100 on Sunday. The number of victims in intensive care has also climbed to 87 patients on mechanical respirators.

Ingrid Goldani, a 21-year-old bartender at the nightclub, may have saved her life with a gasp of fresh air when she stuck her head inside a freezer before dashing for the exit. But hours later, she fell ill at home and was taken to the hospital.

Doctors diagnosed her with chemical pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling poisonous gas. They warned it may be a week before other victims feel the symptoms.

Exams of some patients have shown airways coated in a thick black film, said Jaime Felipe Federbusch, a burn doctor who has treated victims at a hospital in nearby Porto Alegre.

"It looks like you're descending a chimney," he said.

The most serious injuries were not caused by direct burns, he added, but by the inhaled toxins such as cyanide that filled the club as soundproofing on the ceiling caught fire.

"That place became a gas chamber," said Federbusch.

(Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (3)
Mr.Tubarc wrote:
Now it is 236 lives erased by a public negligence taking a hard toll mostly on young aspiring top college students.

Feb 02, 2013 6:53am EST  --  Report as abuse
Mr.Tubarc wrote:
Blame is just a simple way of releasing our sore feeling for such an avoidable tragedy. The torch was not supposed to have been used, toxic flammable foam was not supposed to be there, the fire extinguisher was supposed to work, emergency lights was supposed to have lit and guided a fast exits, the emergency exit doors were supposed to exist, and open to let around a thousand partygoers to leave the place safely in time to protect their lives. As a scientist I started a campaign in Brazil for NULL VOTE in the next 236 years till our government learn to care for public affairs.

Feb 02, 2013 7:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
Mr.Tubarc wrote:
‘NULL VOTE IN THE NEXT 236 YEARS’ – 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 fail management of public affairs. It is triggered the challenge to make SANTA MARIA and KISS BOITE the centre 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 as a power for changes and making it happen for the good of us.

Feb 02, 2013 7:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
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