Updated: Wed, 30 Jan 2013 21:23:14 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Brazilian nightclub owner blames 'whole country' for fire deaths



Brazilian nightclub owner blames 'whole country' for fire deaths

The owner of a nightclub in southern Brazil where more than 230 people died in a fire on the weekend deflected blame to "the whole country," his lawyer said Wednesday.

Attorney Jader Marques said his client, Elissandro Spohr, "regretted having ever been born" because of his grief over the fire, but still blamed Sunday's tragedy on "a succession of errors made by the whole country," including architects and inspectors charged with making sure the building was safe.

Police investigating the blaze have said it likely started when a country music band performing at the Kiss nightclub in the college town of Santa Maria lit a flare, which ignited flammable soundproofing foam on the ceiling.

Police have said that initial error was compounded by the lack of emergency infrastructure such as a fire alarms or sprinkler systems. The club also had only one working door and a faulty fire extinguisher.

Owner insists fewer than 700 people in club

Marques denied reports that overcrowding helped cause Sunday's tragedy, insisting there were only 600 to 700 people in the club at any one time.

Capacity for the 615-square-metre nightspot was less than 700, though the band's guitarist told media that the space was packed with an estimated 1,200 to 1,300 people. Police have given the same estimate.

Marques insisted that any higher tallies of people at the club that night were due to club-goers cycling in and out.

Survivors admitted with new respiratory problems

The number of injured jumped to 143 Wednesday after 22 people were admitted to hospitals with respiratory problems after having escaped the club apparently unharmed.

Brazil Health Minister Alexandre Padilha has urged the fire's survivors to remain alert for any symptoms of so-called "chemical pneumonia," which can take up to three days to develop following exposure to toxic fumes and smoke.

The blaze also claimed another life late Tuesday, raising the death toll to 235, as a 21-year-old man with burns covering 70 per cent of his body succumbed to his injuries.

Brazilian media reported that the man's brother was also killed in the fire.

Safety regulations scrutinized ahead of World Cup, Olympics

The tragedy raised questions about the reliability of safety regulations in a nation set to host the World Cup and Olympic Games.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press, including past building and fire safety plan permits issued to the club, showed that the single exit, the foam insulation and other contributors to the tragedy didn't violate laws.

Amid the shock of what was the world's deadliest nightclub fire in a decade, changes in Brazil seem on the horizon.

In the nation’s capital, Brasilia, lawmakers in the lower house worked on a proposal that would require federal safety minimum standards across Brazil. Now states individually create such laws.

The newspaper O Globo reported on its website that the mayor's office in Santa Maria ordered all nightclubs closed for 30 days while inspections are carried out.

Elsewhere, the government of the country's biggest city, Sao Paulo, set to host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, promised tougher security regulations for nightclubs.

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