Brazil nightclub fire: Police charge nine with homicide

BRASILIA (AFP) - Police on Friday closed their probe of the late January disco fire that killed 241 people in the college town of Santa Maria, charging nine people with homicide.

The two owners of the Kiss nightclub and three of their partners; two musicians who took part in an ill-fated pyrotechnic show; and two firefighters responsible for supervising the club operation were all charged for the Jan 27 blaze.

Police told a Santa Maria press conference that the fire started when sparks from a flare lit by the band singer ignited the ceiling's insulating material, releasing lethal fumes. Another 623 people were injured in the fire.

Security violations at the club, located in a town in Rio Grande do Sul state, included a lack of emergency lights, inoperable fire extinguishers, and an overcrowded dance floor.

Thirty-five people were held responsible for the tragedy, including the mayor of Santa Maria and the head of the fire department.

Victim relatives broke into tears when police aired videos showing how the flames and the smoke quickly spread in the nightclub, as well as the chaos that trapped many of the customers, preventing them reaching the exits.

"We removed the audio, it was too disheartening," said police inspector Marcelo Arigony.

The tragedy was a huge embarrassment for Brazil as it gears up to host the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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