By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – The United States government has sent special medication to Brazil to treat survivors of a nightclub blaze who inhaled cyanide gas released by burning soundproofing foam, the Brazilian Health Ministry said. The death toll from the fire last Sunday reached 237 late Saturday, when a 22-year-old victim succumbed to injuries sustained in the fire in Santa Maria.
According to a statement from the Rio Grande do Sul Health Secretariat, Bruno Portella Fricks died late Saturday. The secretariat said that 97 people remain hospitalized.
The fire broke out in the early hours of last Sunday, when a member of a band that was performing let off a flare. Cyanide gas was released when soundproofing foam layered across the ceiling of the nightclub caught fire.
“The 140 hydroxocobalamin kits were requested in a preventative manner for treating the patients who need them and as a reserve in case of need. Any action or effort that is necessary to save lives will be done,” said Health Minister Alexandre Padilha in a statement.
Investigators have concluded that most of the 237 fatalities were caused by asphyxiation by the toxic gases released. Around half those hospitalized are on respirators, suffering inflamed lungs and tracheae.
Survivors of the fire reported a number of safety violations, including a sole exit that was partially blocked, overcrowding, a single malfunctioning fire extinguisher, the use of a flare meant only for outdoors.
On Friday, a judge ordered that the two owners of the club and two band members be detained for a further thirty days while investigations continue. Police have told local media that they four are likely to face manslaughter charges, at minimum.
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