City officials probed for negligence in Brazil nightclub fire
By Ana Flor
SANTA MARIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Prosecutors in southern Brazil, where 235 people died when a fire ravaged a nightclub in Santa Maria last weekend, are investigating whether city leaders and inspectors were negligent in allowing the club to operate.
The investigation, which is separate from a criminal probe into the causes of the tragedy, comes after police said the club's sole exit was partially blocked and that fire extinguishers and emergency exit lights weren't working.
Investigators say the lapses led to the stampede and subsequent trampling and suffocation that killed most of the fire's victims in the nightclub, called Kiss.
"There is a political dimension to what happened," Cesar Augusto Carlan, a public prosecutor for the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the fire occurred, said in an interview on Wednesday.
He said the investigation sought to determine what fault may lie with the city, fire inspectors and any other enforcement officials who had allowed the nightclub to operate.
Police officials have already begun laying some of the blame on local authorities and an overall culture of lax enforcement in Brazil.
"What we can tell, empirically, is that everything is out of order," said Marcelo Arigony, the police chief in Santa Maria, in a Wednesday interview. "The question of the permit, inspection by the fire department, all of that is the responsibility of local administration."
"And it's not just here, it's Brazil," he added, noting the rampant violations uncovered in recent days as local officials nationwide sought to crack down on irregularities at nightclubs and other venues in the fire's aftermath. Continued...