In Santa Maria, a city in southern Brazil, at least two hundred thirty-one are dead, more than a hundred are injured, after fire swept through “Kiss”, a nightclub that could hold gatherings of up to two thousand people. The place, with its permission to operate expired since August of last year, could more appropriately be named “the kiss of death”. It has one entrance and one emergency exit – no windows. The place was stuffed with highly flammable soundproofing material, and heavy security made sure no one left without paying for food and drinks first. When a member of one of the bands playing inside decided to light flares – very similar to those used by stranded drivers on the road – the fire caught on the soundproofing material and killed ninety percent of the people by asfixiation in five minutes or less. The picture you see now was taken moments before the fire spread inside the nightclub. Survivors tell that most of those who tried to escape weren’t allowed by security. This was the second worst fire in Brazil’s history – the first one, an arson, destroyed a circus and killed over five hundred, in 1961. Today’s tragedy puts in evidence the highly toxic levels of ignorance, negligence and greed still very much prevalent in Brazilian society, a very corrupt entity as a whole. No one, in his or her right mind, would allow the presence of flares in a tightly closed environment such as this one, much less lighting them up. In Santa Maria, what seemed to be a celebration ended up having all the elements of a collective suicide pact. Reporting from Brasilia, Brazil, I am Claudio Lessa.
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