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No alarm, only 1 exit in nightclub fire

By Juliana Barbassa

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2013 10:30 p.m. MST

A police officer places flowers outside the Kiss nightclub that were brought by mourners in memory of those who died due to a fire at the club in Santa Maria, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. A fast-moving fire roared through the crowded, windowless Kiss nightclub in this southern Brazilian city early Sunday, killing more than 230 people. Many of the victims were under 20 years old, including some minors. (AP Photo/Nabor Goulart)

Associated Press

SANTA MARIA, Brazil — There was no fire alarm. There were no sprinklers or fire escapes. And when a band member tried to put out a fire that had been started by pyrotechnics, the extinguisher didn't work.

All the elements were in place for the tragedy at the Kiss nightclub early Sunday. The result was the world's worst fire of its kind in more than a decade, with 231 people dead and this southern Brazilian college town in shock and mourning.

Funerals began on Monday, as reports continued to emerge about the accumulation of neglect and errors at the packed night spot.

According to state safety codes here, clubs should have one fire extinguisher every 1,500 square feet as well as multiple emergency exits. Limits on the number of people admitted are to be strictly respected. None of that appears to have happened at the Santa Maria nightclub.

"A problem in Brazil is that there is no control of how many people are admitted in a building," said Joao Daniel Nunes, a civil engineer in nearby Porto Alegre. "They never are clearly stated, and nobody controls how many people enter these night clubs."

Santa Maria's mayor, Jose Fortunati, told Radio Gaucha that dozens of night spots were closed last year for failing to meet norms.

Brazilian police said they detained three people in connection with the blaze, while the newspaper O Globo said on its website that a fourth person had surrendered to police.

Vieira declined to identify those detained, but the Brazilian newspaper Zero Hora quotes lawyer Jader Marques saying his client Elissandro Spohr, a co-owner of the club, had been held. Globo reported that the fourth person detained was another club co-owner. G1, Globo Television's internet portal, reported that Spohr acknowledged the club's operating license was not up to date but said the pyrotechnics show started the blaze.

Zero Hora said police also detained two members of the band.

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