SANTA MARIA, Brazil – Three people have been arrested for a deadly fire that swept through a Santa Maria nightclub killing 233 revelers, as Brazil on Monday was mourning the victims and families were still identifying the dead.
An owner of the nightclub and two members of the band performing there at the time of the fire were arrested, police confirmed.
Another owner of the Kiss nightclub in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul was considered a fugitive, a police spokesman told news website G1.
The singer of the band Gurizada Fandangueira was reportedly arrested in the nearby town of Mata during the funeral for a fellow band member killed in Sunday’s blaze.
Most of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 23 years old, according to a list of the identified bodies that was made public. Many minors were also killed and at least 217 were injured.
About 121 people remained in hospitals Monday – 80 of them were listed in serious condition, said Health Minister Alexandre Padilha.
“These are patients who are in intensive care, with mechanical help to breathe,” Padilha said.
Brazilian authorities have contacted skin banks in neighboring countries, including Argentina, Uruguay and Peru, in case they need assistance to perform grafts for those suffering severe burns.
The victims’ families queued outside a sports center, which had become a makeshift morgue, to identify their loved ones from the bodies that were laid out in a row with plastic sheets covering all but their faces.
Up to 80 bodies were to be buried Monday in Santa Maria.
The nightclub had a capacity for 2,000 people. Firefighters needed to make holes in the walls in an effort to rescue possible survivors. When they finally managed to enter, they saw a pile of bodies.
Preliminary information indicated that the fire was sparked by a pyrotechnics display by the band during a concert attended largely by students from a nearby university.
Sparks hit the soundproof foam on the ceiling and caught fire, according to broadcaster Globo. Many people were unable to reach the emergency exits in the ensuing panic.
President Dilma Rousseff abruptly cut short her participation in the EU-Latin American summit in Santiago to travel Sunday to the Rio Grande do Sul, which is also her home state.
The government canceled an event scheduled in Brasilia to mark the 500 days left until the start of the 2014 football World Cup, which the country is to host.
Santa Maria is a town of 270,000, and home to one of Brazil’s largest public universities.