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January 27, 2013

Brazil Nightclub Fire Kills 232, More than 100 Injured

by VOA News

Brazilian officials say 232 people are dead and more than 100 injured after a fire swept through a nightclub crowded with university students in the southern city of Santa Maria.
 
Authorities said the fire broke out early Sunday at a club known as 'Kiss' and that while the cause of the blaze has not yet been confirmed, a flare or firework that was part of the band's pyrotechnic display is the likely cause. Witnesses reported that the fire broke out after band members lit flares.
 
Many of the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled as panicked revelers pushed and shoved to escape the building. A recount lowered the toll from the 245 earlier believed to have been killed.
 
The fire ranks among the deadliest ever in a nightclub, comparable to a blaze in China in 2000 in which 309 people died and one in 2004 in a Buenos Aires club in which 194 were killed.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is saddened to learn about the tragedy and is especially moved that so many young people and students were killed.  He says he sends his condolences to their families.
 
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile early Sunday to return home following the fire. 
 
Governor Tarso Genro of Rio Grande do Sul is quoted in a Twitter message as saying "all possible measures" were being taken. He and other officials were coordinating rescue efforts as family members gathered at hospitals in hope of getting news about their loved ones.
 
Santa Maria is a major university city with a population of around 250,000. The town is situated at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay.