MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said that so far, no Filipino was injured in the fire that swept through a night club packed with students and killed hundreds in the south of Brazil early Sunday (Monday in Manila).
“Our embassy in Brazil has made an update and so far, there were no reported Filipino casualties in the fire,” Assistant Secretary and DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez told reporters in a press briefing.
“But they are still coordinating with the Brazilian authorities,” Hernandez added.
British authorities had earlier said that at least 233 people died when the fire engulfed the Kiss nightclub in the university town of Santa Maria.
Agence France Press had earlier reported that the tragedy appeared to be the deadliest such blaze in more than a decade, since a fire at a shopping center and discotheque in the central Chinese city of Luoyang killed more than 300 people in 2000.
Reports said the fire broke out after 2:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) when the nightclub was hosting a university party featuring a rock band using pyrotechnics, but authorities have yet to offer an official explanation.
Survivor Michelle Pereira said the blaze broke out when a band member lifted a firework into the air, setting the ceiling on fire. The flames quickly engulfed the entire room.
“Everyone was pushing and shoving… The fire started out small, but in a matter of seconds it exploded,” Taynne Vendruscolo, another survivor, told reporters. “Those who were close to the stage could not get out.”
Santa Maria fire chief Guido de Melo said the fire caused widespread panic, and that many revelers were trampled or died from smoke inhalation. He said club security blocked people from exiting, sparking panic and trampling.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile, where she was attending a European and Latin American summit, to head to Santa Maria and oversee the response to the tragedy.
“It’s a tragedy for all of us, and I cannot continue here at the summit, because my priority is the Brazilian people,” the visibly emotional leader told reporters traveling with her in Santiago.
She said federal and local authorities are mobilizing “all resources, so that we do not just recover the bodies but also support families at this time and provide very efficient care to the injured.”
Argentina’s transplant center INCUCAI said it would be sending banked skin to help Brazil with a likely greater need for burn-related skin grafts.
The tragedy recalled a 2003 blaze in a nightclub in the US state of Rhode Island that killed 100 people and another in Buenos Aires in 2004 that killed some 200, both blamed on faulty safety measures. With reports from AFP