Diatribe: Hundreds Perish In Brazilian Nightclub Fire.
The office building where I work has a system in place for evacuation in the event of a fire. On each floor there are designated “fire marshals” whose job it is to be a liaison between the people in their office and the building’s management. Twice each year all the fire marshal’s gather for meetings both before and after a fire drill to discuss the successes and failures of the procedures in place and to ascertain that the amount of time required to evacuate the entire building is within reasonable expectations.
Having been a part of this system for several years, I was amazed and appalled to learn that as many as two hundred forty-five people were killed on Saturday night after a band’s fireworks show sparked a rapidly moving fire in a packed nightclub in southern Brazil and fleeing patrons were unable to find their way out.
The victims, most of whom were college students, died either of asphyxiation or from being trampled. In addition to the number of deaths, more than one hundred people were injured and most remain hospitalized. The death toll could rise if the injured do not recover.
Television footage overnight showed people crying outside the club, Kiss, as shirtless firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit. Late yesterday, the precise cause of the fire was still under investigation, but a civil police official said that the blaze started when someone with the band ignited what was described as a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling. The fire then spread rapidly through the club.
Brazil’s safety standards and emergency response capabilities are already under scrutiny as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Summer Olympics. This incident will, surely, elevate the issue of fire safety to the forefront of preparations.
This tragedy may have been avoided by the use of periodic fire and evacuation drills at the club. Public facilities in the U.S. have emergency exit plans in place and buildings are constructed with fire codes in mind. While they do occur, fires of this nature are rare.
This is such a sad story.
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