Grief turns to anger after Brazil club fire

Updated 29 January 2013
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Grief turns to anger after Brazil club fire

SANTA MARIA, Brazil: Relatives of the 231 people who died in a Brazilian nightclub fire demanded answers yesterday as to how it could have killed so many people, while police questioned the club’s owner and members of the band whose pyrotechnics show allegedly caused the tragedy.
Several coffins, many draped with flags of the victims’ favorite soccer teams, lined a gymnasium that has become a makeshift morgue since the fire in the early hours on Sunday, one of the world’s deadliest such incidents in a decade.
The death toll was revised down overnight from 233 to 231, as officials said some names had been counted twice.
Eighty-two people remained hospitalized in and around the southern city of Santa Maria. At least 30 of them were in serious condition.
As shell-shocked residents attended a marathon of funerals starting in the pre-dawn hours on Monday, the focus began to shift to what will likely be a barrage of police investigations, lawsuits and recriminations aimed at politicians and others.
“We can’t trust in the ability of city hall, or the police, or anybody who permits a party with more a thousand people under these conditions,” said Erica Weber, who was accompanying her daughter to a funeral for one of her classmates.
Most of the dead were suffocated by toxic fumes that rapidly filled the Kiss nightclub after the band set off a pyrotechnics display at about 2:30 a.m, witnesses said. State prosecutor Valeska Agostini told Reuters one of the club’s owners and members of the band had been taken into police custody to answer questions although no arrests or criminal charges are likely until after the investigation is completed.
The band’s guitarist, Rodrigo Lemos Martins, 32, said he doubted the band was responsible for the blaze. “There were lots of wires (in the ceiling), maybe it was a short circuit,” Folha de S.Paulo newspaper quoted him as saying.
The band’s accordion player, Danilo Jaques, 30, was among those killed but the other five members survived.
It seems certain others will share the blame for Brazil’s second-deadliest fire ever. The use of a flare inside the club was a clear breach of security regulations, fire officials said, and witnesses said bouncers initially tried to prevent people from fleeing from the one functioning exit because they believed they were trying to skip out on their bar tabs.
Clubs and restaurants in Brazil are generally subject to a web of overlapping safety regulations, but enforcement is uneven and owners sometimes pay bribes to continue operating.
The investigation of the Kiss fire could drag on for years. After a similar fire at an Argentine nightclub in 2004 killed 194 people, more than six years passed before a court found members of a band criminally responsible for starting the blaze and causing the deaths.
That tragedy also provoked a massive backlash against politicians and led to the removal of the mayor of Buenos Aires.
Valdeci Oliveira, a legislator in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state where the weekend tragedy took place, said on his Twitter feed that he and his colleagues would seek to ban pyrotechnics displays in closed spaces such as nightclubs.
“It won’t bring anybody back but we’re going to introduce the bill,” Oliveira said.


Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

Updated 9 min 31 sec ago
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Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The murder of a teenage maid in India triggered calls on Monday for the government to urgently pass laws to curb trafficking and update legislation that lets children work as domestic help.
Police said the 16-year-old girl from eastern Jharkhand state was strangled and her body chopped up and dumped in a drain earlier this month after she demanded a year's unpaid salary from the employment agency that hired her.
A man, who worked at the agency that brings girls from poor families in rural areas to work in Delhi, was arrested late last week, senior Delhi police officer Rajender Singh Sagar told reporters.
"How can we allow our little daughters to be brutally killed after trafficking and exploitation? Where is the rule of law?" Indian Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Twitter.
The case has put the spotlight on the abuse of domestic servants in India where millions of people, including children trafficked from remote and impoverished states, toil for long hours in homes with little freedom or protection.
Satyarthi urged the government to pass India's new anti-trafficking bill, that was cleared by cabinet in February but has not been tabled in parliament yet, and called for the enactment of another bill to regulate employment agencies.
With stringent punishment for traffickers and quick relief for victims, campaigners believe the anti-trafficking law will result in more arrests and convictions.
About 60 percent of the more than 23,000 trafficking victims rescued in India in 2016 were children, government data shows.
Campaigners have blamed the dilution of the country's child labour act for more children being trafficked for domestic work.
India's parliament approved a controversial law in 2016 allowing children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern that it would push more of them into labor.
Anti-trafficking charity Shakti Vahini demanded a rollback of amendments in the law and quick enactment of legislation to monitor unregulated employment agencies to stop them withholding salaries from workers or using violence against them.
"It is getting worse after the law was amended," Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"There is no fear of law under the current child labour act."