By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The civil investigation into what caused the deadly blaze at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul in January this year, has been reopened by that state’s Public Prosecutor. Family members of the victims had pushed for the measure, claiming that the club should not have received a license to operate in the city.
The Association of Relatives of Victims and Survivors of the tragedy in Santa Maria brought forward evidence of administrative misconduct in the club’s licensing process by Santa Maria’s city government.
The association claims that the number of the building was changed and the club’s neighbors’ signatures forged in order to facilitate the venue’s opening, among other irregularities.
“According to the Civil Police, someone at the city government turned a blind eye to [the irregularities]. We still don’t know who it was, but the police knows,” Adherbal Alves Ferreira, president of the association, told Agência Brasil.
The decision to reopen the investigation is bringing the families of the victims some hope, according to Ferreira, as the city government had so far been cleared of any responsibility in a preliminary inquiry into the possibility of administrative misconduct. The tragic fire was mostly blamed on the city’s firefighters for failing to verify the club’s fire license adequately.
The reopened investigation will now look into the nightclub’s entire licensing process, but the public prosector leading the case did not reveal how many people would be targeted. However, the investigation is expected to look into Santa Maria’s mayor, who might even face criminal charges.
On January 27th, a fire broke out in the Kiss nightclub after a band lit fireworks inside the packed club. The flames led to chaos, as clubgoers stampeded towards the venue’s only emergency exit. As a result, 242 people, mostly students from the nearby university, died in the fire. At present, eight people are facing criminal charges, among them the two owners of the nightclub and two members of the band, who were arrested shortly after the incident.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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