Four arrested in inquiry into fire in Brazil


Two co-owners of the Brazilian nightclub in which 233 people died on Sunday have been held by police as anger mounts at evidence that negligence contributed to Brazil’s worst fire tragedy in 50 years.

Elissandro Spohr, one of the two, was arrested by officers at a hospital in a town near the southern city of Santa Maria, where the Kiss club was located. He was reportedly being treated for smoke inhalation.

Police also detained the singer of the band that was performing when the fire started, as well as one of its road crew, as they investigate whether the group’s fireworks show caused the disaster.

The singer was held at the funeral of his band’s accordion player, the only member of the group to die in the tragedy.

Witnesses said flares used during the band’s performance set fire to soundproofing material on the ceiling, which quickly turned the club into a smoke-filled inferno.

Obstructing investigation

Police claim they sought the men’s detention because they were obstructing the investigation. Many of the dead were found in the bathrooms, where they had sought refuge from the smoke but where there were no exits.

The four have not been charged and can be held for five days for questioning.

The band’s drummer told Brazilian media the group regularly used flares as part of its stage show.

He claimed a member of its road crew tried to put out the initial fire using one of the club’s fire extinguishers but it failed. The group’s guitarist told the Folha de S Paulo newspaper that a short circuit could have started the fire, claiming he saw many wires in the ceiling.

No licence

Authorities later admitted the club was operating without a licence, which expired last August. Santa Maria’s mayor, Cezar Schirmer, said the municipal government was not responsible, pushing blame onto the local fire brigade.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff declared three days of national mourning as the town of Santa Maria buried 72 young victims yesterday.

Of the 121 people still in hospital, about 80 are in a “grave condition”, according to Brazil’s health minister Alexandre Padilha.

Many suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation. The government has contacted human skin banks in Argentina, Uruguay and Peru about possible donations for the burns victims.

Tarso Genro, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul state, where Santa Maria is located, said the state authorities were unable to regulate all the state’s nightclubs, normally the work of municipal governments which he admitted often used obsolete criteria.

The tragedy has focused attention on Brazil’s ability to safely host over half a million visitors expected for the World Cup in 16 months.