Deadly club blaze raises Brazil World Cup safety questions

As Brazilians mourn 233 dead, focus turns on upcoming World Cup and 2016 Olympics

LAST UPDATED AT 10:16 ON Mon 28 Jan 2013

BRAZIL has declared three days of national mourning after 233 people died and more than 100 were injured in a nightclub fire early on Sunday morning, amid concerns about safety standards in the country due to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

Officials are looking into claims that the blaze at the Kiss club in the southern city of Santa Maria was started by a flare let off by the band Gurizada Fandangueira. They are also investigating reports that bouncers prevented victims escaping from the club, unaware that the clubbers were trying flee the toxic smoke.

The majority of the dead are thought to have been students from the city's University of Santa Maria, who were holding a party. Brazilian broadcaster Globo said the majority were aged between 16-20, with some using fake IDs.

Officials say the club could have exceeded its legal capacity, with reports that up to 1,000 revelers were inside when the blaze began. Colonel Guido Pedroso de Mel, regional fire brigade commander, said there were some safety violations and that the Kiss club's licence was in the process of being renewed.

Reuters reports that when firefighters arrived at the club they had trouble getting in because "there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance", with witnesses saying only one emergency exit was available.

Medical student Murilo de Tiecher told Brazil's Zero Hora newspaper that bouncers tried to close the doors as people attempted to flee. "People were screaming 'there's a fire' but the security guards didn't budge and tried to keep the door shut", he said.

In the wake of the tragedy, an event in Brasilia marking 500 days before the country is due to host the World Cup has been postponed.

President Rousseff cut short a trip to Chile in order to visit survivors but she will also have to deal with concerns from around the world that Brazil's crowd safety regulations are up to standard well before the World Cup kicks off. · 

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