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World's Worst Nightclub Fires


In the early hours of Jan. 27, 2013, fire swept through a nightclub in southern Brazil. The flames, smoke, and panicked stampede for a single exit left more than 230 clubgoers dead in the worst such fire in more than a decade. Here are the worst tragedies that have struck nightclubs.

Cocoanut Grove

A former speakeasy, the Cocoanut Grove in Boston was decked out in tropical-themed decorations and a particularly popular spot on November 28, 1942, Thanksgiving weekend. It's estimated that a thousands partygoers were packed into a club meant for 460 people, with exits obscured by decorations and others blocked off. Past the 10 o'clock hour, a busboy lit a match to try to replace a light bulb that had been unscrewed by a patron in the downstairs lounge. Fire began in the fronds of a fake palm tree and paper decor quickly caught fire. Because of all the flammable materials lining the walls and ceiling, the fire spread upstairs and through the club in about five minutes. Bodies jammed up the single revolving door at the main entrance and others found their exit impeded by safety faults such as doors that opened inward and boarded-up windows. The fire killed 492 people.

Luoyang Disco

On Dec. 25, 2000, patrons -- mostly teenagers -- were celebrating the holiday at a popular, unlicensed disco in the Dongdu building in Luoyang, Henan, China. Government officials blamed the start of the fire on welders working on one of the lower floors of the building. The building had no fire sprinklers or smoke detectors, and many of the victims were trapped in the nightclub on the top floor behind a locked emergency exit to the roof. The official death toll including nightclub patrons and construction workers on lower floors is 309, though some claim that must be higher because the nightclub sold more than 500 tickets for the Christmas dance and only about a dozen of the patrons survived.

Kiss Nightclub

Scores of revelers were packed into the Kiss Nightclub in Santa Maria, southern Brazil, in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2013, when the band Gurizada Fandangueira was in the middle of its set. Witnesses blamed flares used in the band's performance for sparking the blaze, which began on the ceiling and quickly spread. There was only one exit blocked by bodies from the panicked stampede, and firefighters and college students hacked away at windows and walls in an effort to free those trapped inside. One member of the band was among the more than 230 confirmed dead. Fire officials estimated that about 90 percent of the deaths were due to asphyxiation from the toxic smoke. The blaze was eerily reminiscent of the 2003 fire in a Rhode Island nightclub when the band Great White's use of pyrotechnics onstage killed 100.

Rhythm Night Club

On April 23, 1940, members of the local Moneywasters Social Club were packed inside the Rhythm Club in Natchez, Miss., when a fire started at about 11:30 p.m. Decorative Spanish moss served as fuel for the blaze, which adorned the rafters of the one-story wooden building. Windows were boarded up to keep non-paying customers from enjoying the orchestra and the back door was locked and boarded up. The 209 victims were mostly African-American, and many were buried in mass graves.

República Cromañón

On Dec. 30, 2004, about 3,000 patrons were packed into this Buenos Aires nightclub to see the rock band Callejeros. Like other similar tragedies, the band used a pyrotechnic flare that ignited wood, styrofoam, and netting decorations -- but the band had warned the crowd not to set off the New Year's celebratory flares. Four of the club's six doors were chained shut and the establishment lacked basic fire safety like extinguishers. The fire killed 194. The city's mayor was later impeached over the poor fire inspections. The six members of the band were convicted for murder and sentenced to 11 years in prison each.
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