By Xiong Ping
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- A fire in a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday has left more than 200 people dead and about 100 others injured, mostly university and college students.
The country's worst such accident since 1961 has shocked Brazil and prompted the question: why did so many die?
The nightclub, "Kiss", in the city of Santa Maria, was a favorite among local students. It was holding a party overnight Saturday featuring several popular local singers and two bands, mainly targeted at students from Santa Maria Federal University.
But, at around 2:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) Sunday, the nightclub turned into an inferno, engulfing the young lives. The tragedy may be attributed to six key factors, based on police analysis and survivors' accounts.
The main and most direct factor was that a band member lit fireworks on the illegally built stage, setting off the fire in the sound-proof roof. It appears the foam material in the roof ensured the flames spread swiftly.
Second, there was only one emergency exit and no clear exit signs in a club that can accommodate about 2,000 people. Rescuers had to drill through the walls to enter the club, significantly delaying rescue efforts.
Third, the nightclub was overcrowded, resulting in many of the victims being trampled to death.
Fourth, the restrooms were not safe. Rescuers said more than 180 bodies were found in the restrooms, the doors of which were not airtight and could not keep out the heavy smoke.
Fifth, security guards blocked costumers trying to escape and asked them to pay fees, instead of helping to evacuate them. In fact, the crowd had overcome the guards before they could escape the flames.
Finally, and most importantly, there was a lack of control and supervision by government bodies. The club's license expired last August, but it continued to operate with unchecked extinguishers and other facilities.
Local experts say 90 percent of the nightclubs in Brazil have potential safety deficiencies, with inspectors bribed to turn a blind eye.