Police have arrested two owners of the Brazilian nightclub where a fire killed 231 people on Sunday. Two members of the band that allegedly sparked the blaze with its pyrotechnics display have also been arrested.
Brazilian police arrested four suspects on Monday as President Dilma Rousseff urged local authorities to ensure that such an incident would never happen again.
Two club owners were arrested, one turning himself in after being sought by police as a fugitive. Two band members were also arrested for their alleged role in causing the blaze.
Singer Gurizada Fandangueira was reportedly arrested in the nearby town of Mata during the funeral for a fellow band member who died trying to retrieve his accordion from the fire.
Although no charges were immediately filed against the four men, prosecutors said they could be held for up to five days.
Rousseff, who had cut short a visit to Chile, urged mayors across the country to ensure that such a "terrible tragedy never takes place again."
Most of the fire's victims died of smoke inhalation. At least 116 were injured in addition to the nearly twice as many killed, according to officials. Brazil declared three days of national mourning.
‘Barrier of bodies'
Rescuers had trouble entering because "there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance," fire commander Guido Pedroso Melo told the O Globo newspaper.
The fire spread so fast that emergency responders could do little to stop it, survivor Luana Santos Silva told the Globo TV network.
"There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic, and it took a long time for people to get out," Santos said. "There were so many dead."
An entrance the size of five door spaces functioned as the club's only way in and out.
According to the private broadcaster Globo, sparks from the band's pyrotechnic display hit the soundproof foam on the ceiling and caught fire. Witnesses also reported the band's fireworks as having started the fire.
Santa Maria fire Chief Guido de Melo said the fire caused widespread panic and that many of the victims were trampled. He also said club security had blocked people from leaving which sparked a stampede.
A survivor of the blaze, Taynne Vendruscolo, told reporters: “everyone was pushing and shoving. The fire started out small, but within seconds it exploded. Those who were close to the stage could not get out.”
mkg,rc/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)