“Do I agree with the fact that there was only one exit? No,” said Maj. Gerson Pereira, an inspector with the local fire department. “Do I agree that the roof was covered with flammable material? No, I don’t. I would have liked to shut down this place, but then the firefighters could be sued” because no law had been broken.
The same documents show that other regulations were broken, including irregularities in the fire safety inspection of the club, as well as pyrotechnics used by the band that police say should not have been set off indoors. Police inspectors say any of the violations was reason enough to shut the club down.
One document shows the club had already been labeled by fire officials a “medium” risk for a fire. By state law, that designation requires the club undergo annual inspections, but records show that the last inspection took place in August 2011.
Survivors have said the club’s fire extinguishers failed to work in early attempts to battle the blaze. Under state law, an extinguisher must have a receipt showing that it had been independently inspected within a year.
“It’s not that this club was working to come within this or that law — the place should have never been open in the first place,” Arigony said. “This is a problem that is seen across Brazil, these laws. I can only hope this tragedy brings about change.”
Jaime Moncada, a U.S.-based fire-safety consultant with nearly three decades experience in Latin America including large projects in Brazil, said he was not surprised that one exit was permissible under local law.
“For an American audience, it is crazy to think that a place would have only one exit,” he said.
In Brazil, he added, that would be the norm.
Amid the shock of what was the world’s deadliest nightclub fire in a decade, changes in Brazil seemed on the horizon.
In Brasilia, the nation’s capital, 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.
The fire even sparked action in the Central American country of Nicaragua, which is banning the use of fireworks or other incendiary devices in nightclubs and other enclosed spaces, police spokesman Francisco Diaz said Wednesday.
He said President Daniel Ortega had issued the total ban on flares, fireworks and other such devices and ordered police to strictly enforce it.
He said police would also be checking all nightclubs, bars and other entertainment venues to make sure they comply with regulations requiring at least one emergency exit, separate from the main entrance, and a government-approved emergency plan. He said venues would have 45 days to comply.