At least 47 die in Venezuela nightclub blaze


At least 47 people were killed when a blaze gutted a packed nightclub in downtown Caracas early today.

The fire at the 'La Goajira' nightclub, located in the basement of an old building in one of the poorest neighborhoods of downtown Caracas, broke out in the early hours of this morning.

Caracas fire chief Mr Rodolfo Briceno told Globovision television 200 people were packed into the nightclub, which was not in compliance with safety codes.

Rescue teams rushed eight people with serious burns to area hospitals.

About 80 per cent of the victims died of smoke inhalation, said Mr Briceno.

Mr Briceno said firefighters immediately evacuated 500 people from nearby buildings because of what he described as "dense toxic smoke" coming from the site of the blaze.

A witness survivor, Ms Mereida Cisneros, told Globovision the blaze broke out at the entrance. "We thought it was a foolish thing that would be quickly put out," she said. But then the fire extinguishers failed, she said, and the flames began to spread.

The nightclub is located in a rundown area of Caracas with a great number of warehouses and inexpensive hotels. The club itself made extra money by renting small rooms to couples by the hour.

Mr Briceno did not give the cause of the blaze, but did say there were "many types of fire, presumably a lot of people were smoking and there was a kitchen," all of which may have caused the fire.

There were also many flammable products and no emergency exits aside from the front door, Mr Briceno said.