Brazilian police are questioning people in connection with a nightclub fire that killed hundreds early Sunday morning in the university city of Santa Maria. There are conflicting reports about the investigation: the BBC says that four people have been arrested, according to, including two owners of the club and a member of the band that started the fire. The New York Times reports that three people have merely been detained for questioning: a co-owner of the club and two members of the band.
The fire reportedly started after a member of the band, Gurizada Fandangueira, lit a flare while onstage at the club, Kiss. At least one band member died in the fire. Officials are also investigating claims that many were unable to escape the blaze because only one emergency exit was available; other reports indicate that the club’s security guards, initially unaware there was a fire, had kept people from exiting the venue out of conern that patrons were leaving without paying their tabs.
In an interview with The New York Times, Santa Maria police Capt. Edi Garcia said it was apparent that many had tried to escape the blaze through the club’s bathrooms, adding the aftermath looked like something out of a horror film: “People went to the bathrooms looking for windows, they fell unconscious, then others crawled on top of them to get to the windows, and that’s how it went on happening,” he said.
Fifty of the night’s 231 victims were buried on Monday, and Brazil has declared three days of national mourning. More than 100 people are currently being treated in hospitals, primarily for smoke inhalation. The fire marks the deadliest blaze the country has seen in 50 years.