Brazilian fire through the eyes of a native

Gabriela Pires | Lindenlink Reporter

It is always hard to come back to school after a break. International students need to leave their countries, family, and friends. I am also an international student from Brazil, and I also had to leave home.

However, this time I had a huge surprise when I arrived in the U.S.. I come from a small town called Independencia, in Rio Grande do Sul, three hours away from Santa Maria, the very same town where, perhaps, the biggest tragedy to happen in 50 years in Brazil occurred.

On Sunday, Jan. 27, a fire broke out at Kiss nightclub that killed around 235 and injured at least 200 people, police and firefighters said. I watched the tragedy on CNN while I was waiting for my flight to St. Louis.

My first thought was about my friends living in that town. Santa Maria is mostly a college town, and I lived there myself. On the night of the fire, the nightclub hosted a party for students of Santa Maria Federal University.

The fire started between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., when members of the band Gurizada Fandagueira used pyrotechnics for the show. The sparkles hit the ceiling and the fire spread quickly after that.

About 2,000 people were inside the club, double the capacity accepted. In the moment of confusion, security guards blocked the only exit for some minutes, thinking there was a fight going on.

When the fire broke out there was no sufficient signal leading to the exit door. People ended up trapped inside bathrooms. Firefighters said that most of the bodies found were inside the bathroom. Many died from smoke inhalation.

gazetadailhaTwo members of the band, Gurizada and Fandagueira, were arrested together with two owners of Kiss nightclub on Monday, Jan. 28. They were moved out of Santa Maria because they feared being threatened.

President Dilma Rouseff visited Santa Maria on Sunday, Jan. 27. Rouseff was at the municipal gymnasium where the bodies of the victims were for the families to recognize.

“The pain I witnessed is indescribable,” said Rouseff. Rouseff was in Chile, and returned to Brazil as soon as she heard about the tragedy.

On Jan. 28, families and friends of the victims organized a march in Santa Maria. The event was organized by one of the Santa Maria Federal University staff  and about 30,000 people participated.

This tragedy shocked not only Brazil, but also the whole world. Franciele Bastos, Santa Maria Federal University student said, “When I walked down the streets I could see journalists from all over the world. It was horrifying, phones from the victims were still ringing.”


I hope that the families, friends, and people still recovering from this incident can overcome this tragedy. I hope that better days will come for them, and that something like this would never repeat again in any part of the world.