Three arrested for Brazil nightclub fire

Santa Maria (Brazil), Jan 29 (IANS/EFE) One of the owners of the Kiss nightclub and two musicians have been arrested in connection with the fire that killed 231 people over the weekend in Santa Maria, a city in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state, media reports said Monday.

An arrest warrant was also issued for the nightclub's other owner, but it could not be executed because he was among the 112 people hospitalized for injuries sustained in the fire, precinct chief Marcelo Arigony, who is in charge of the investigation, told the official Estado news agency.

The arrest warrants were issued Monday morning by Judge Regis Adil Bertolin in Santa Maria.

The club's operating license expired last year, Rio Grande do Sul fire department central region chief Lt. Col. Moises da Silva Fuchs told the G1 news web site.

"It has been expired since August. The license is needed for the normal operation of the establishment," Da Silva Fuchs said.

Elissandro Spohr, one of the nightclub's owners, and two members of Gurizada Fandangueira, the band performing when the fire started, were arrested by police.

The band's accordion player, Danilo Jaques, died in the blaze, which started when a member of the band set off fireworks, investigators said.

Of the 112 people hospitalized after the fire, 79 are in intensive care, Health Minister Alexandre Padilha said Monday.

Nearly 80 percent of the patients in intensive care are being treated for smoke inhalation, while the other 20 percent are undergoing treatment for serious burns, the health minister said.

Families in Santa Maria, a city of 261,000 that is home to eight universities and a military base, began burying the dead Monday.

Pvt. Leonardo de Lima Machado was among those buried, with officials calling him a hero.

The 26-year-old soldier managed to get out of the burning nightclub, but he went back inside to help others escape the flames.

The soldier was unable to escape the inferno a second time and died.

Machado was buried with full military honours.

"He got his girlfriend out, left her on the sidewalk outside and went back in to help others," Cp. Gilmar Geison Buscher, a friend of the dead soldier, told EFE.

The nightclub fire in Santa Maria was the worst blaze in Brazil in more than 50 years, media reports said.

The worst fire in Brazil's history occurred Dec 17, 1961, during a circus performance in the city of Niteroi, where at least 503 people, the majority of them children, died.

--IANS/EFE

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