U.S. rushing treatment for Brazil fire victims

Fri Feb 1, 2013 8:25pm EST
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By Brian Winter and Eduardo Simões

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The U.S. government is shipping emergency medical supplies to Brazil to treat survivors of a deadly nightclub fire who are suffering from exposure to cyanide gas released in the blaze, the Brazilian health ministry said on Friday.

Officials say 119 people remain hospitalized after Sunday's fire at the Kiss nightclub in southern Brazil that killed 236. Brazilian doctors have said cyanide was among the toxic chemicals produced when fire consumed the soundproofing foam on the club's ceiling, contributing to the high number of fatalities.

Brazil's health ministry urgently requested 140 of the cyanide-treatment kits containing the medicine hydroxocobalamin, a health ministry spokeswoman said.

A source told Reuters the medicine, which is not available in Brazil, was made by a division of Pfizer and purchased by the U.S. Southern Military Command. The kits should arrive on a commercial flight Saturday morning and will be immediately dispatched to hospitals in and around the city of Santa Maria.

The treatment should offset cyanide poisoning, allowing more oxygen into the victims' bodies, but will do little to address a range of other toxins that they likely inhaled, according to a health official who asked not to be named.

"This will improve their chances, but it probably won't treat the main issue," he said.

Also Friday, a judge in southern Brazil ordered 30 more days of detention for the owners of a nightclub and band members accused of starting the blaze with an outdoor flare that ignited overhead soundproofing. The flammable synthetic foam caught fire and within minutes spread toxic fumes throughout the venue.

Most of the victims died after inhaling the fumes, investigators concluded on Thursday.   Continued...

A view of the Boate Kiss nightclub is seen in the southern city of Santa Maria, 187 miles (301 km) west of the state capital Porto Alegre in this handout photo released by the Policia Civil (Civil Police) January 29, 2013. A fire at the nightclub killed at least 231 people in Santa Maria early on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing partygoers stampeded toward blocked and overcrowded exits in the ensuing panic, officials said. REUTERS/Policia Civil/Handout