Survivors: Brazil Nightclub Guards Try To Block Exit [VIDEO]
Survivors of a nightclub fire in southern Brazil say security guards briefly tried to block patrons from leaving the club.
Investigators believe the fast-moving blaze that killed more than 230 people early Sunday was started by a band's pyrotechnics. One band member was killed who returned to retrieve his accordion.
Firefighters responding to the blaze initially had trouble entering the club because "there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance," Guido Pedroso Melo, commander of the city's fire department, told the O Globo newspaper.
"It was terrible inside — it was like one of those films of the Holocaust, bodies piled atop one another," said police inspector Sandro Meinerz. "We had to use trucks to remove them. It took about six hours to take the bodies away."
Most victims died from smoke inhalation rather than burns. Many of the dead, about equally split between young men and women, were also found in the club's two bathrooms, where they fled apparently because the blinding smoke caused them to believe the doors were exits.
There were questions about the club's operating license. Police said it was in the process of being renewed, but it was not clear if it was illegal for the business to be open. A single entrance area about the size of five door spaces was used both as an entrance and an exit.
Family members of those killed walked around the gym in a daze Sunday evening, shuffling between caskets or holding one another and weeping as they identified loved ones and tried to make sense of what had happened.
Television images from the city of about 260,000 people showed black smoke billowing out of the nightclub as shirtless young men who attended a university party there joined firefighters using axes and sledgehammers to pound at the hot-pink exterior walls, trying to reach those trapped inside.
Bodies of the dead and injured were strewn in the street and panicked screams filled the air as medics tried to help. There was little to be done; officials said most of those who died were suffocated by smoke within minutes.
Within hours the community gym was a horror scene, with body after body lined up on the floor, partially covered with black plastic as family members identified kin.