Safety rules ignored in Romanian club fire: President

Romanians paying their respects to the blaze victims in front of the nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. The fire, triggered by fireworks let off during a pre-Halloween gig by a band, left 27 people dead and nearly 200 injured.
Romanians paying their respects to the blaze victims in front of the nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. The fire, triggered by fireworks let off during a pre-Halloween gig by a band, left 27 people dead and nearly 200 injured.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BUCHAREST • Romania's President has said that safety rules may have been ignored at an underground nightclub where a fire and stampede left 27 people dead and nearly 200 injured.

Survivors spoke of the horror that unfolded when fireworks - set off during a pre-Halloween gig by a heavy metal band - unleashed a blaze at the Colectiv club in Bucharest late last Friday, followed by a stampede as terrified clubbers sought the exit.

President Klaus Iohannis pointed to safety failings at the nightclub, where witnesses said up to 400 youngsters had gathered for a performance by rock group Goodbye to Gravity.

"I am saddened, but also revolted that a tragedy of this scale could have taken place in Bucharest," Mr Iohannis said.

"It is unimaginable that there could have been so many people in such a (small) space, and that the tragedy happened so quickly because simple rules were ignored," he added after visiting the scene.

"We already have indications that the legal regulations had not been respected. I hope that the authorities manage their inquiry with speed and rigour."

Investigators have begun gathering evidence from the scene and will interview witnesses, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office told Agence France-Presse.

Twenty-six people perished at the club and one died in hospital, the Secretary of State for the Interior, Dr Raed Arafat, said after a meeting of a national emergency committee.

Nearly 200 people, including several foreigners, were injured. Medical sources said 10 were in critical condition. Witnesses described nightmarish scenes when fireworks, let off as part of a show to promote the band's new album, set fire to a pillar and part of the ceiling.

The crowd panicked as thick smoke engulfed the room, prompting people to scramble to escape from the club, located in a communist-era basement. There were reports that only one of two exits to the nightclub was open.

Fireworks and restricted exits have been a lethal combination in many nightclub fires around the world. In one of the worst such disasters, 156 clubbers in the Russian city of Perm died in 2009 in a blaze caused by pyrotechnics, and 83 were injured.

Seven people were jailed for up to nine years after the tragedy.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Safety rules ignored in Romanian club fire: President'. Print Edition | Subscribe