Romanian Nightclub Fire Leaves Dozens Dead
Thirty-two people have been confirmed dead after a fire in a Romanian nightclub, with officials expecting the death toll to rise.
The fire, thought to have been caused by pyrotechnics catching light to the decorations, has also left over 160 persons in hospital, some in critical condition suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.
Colectiv, a club built in the basement of a communist-era factory, was hosting a free concert for a band called Goodbye to Gravity, who were using the concert as a way to celebrate their new album.
The blaze left more than 300 people packed inside scrambling toward the lone exit in one of Romania's deadliest fires in recent memory.
Eyewitnesses said many in the crowd believed the first moments of the fire were part of the show.
Delia Tugui, a Spanish teacher at the American International School of Bucharest who was at the concert with her husband and son, said club-goers were surprised by how fast the fire spread and panicked.
"The lead singer made a quick joke: 'This wasn't part of the program.' The next second, he realized it wasn't a joke and asked for a fire extinguisher," she wrote online. "In 30 seconds... the fire spread all over the ceiling. People rushed to the entrance but it was too narrow, and people panicked."
"Friends were looking for each other under the pile of people.”
She said she knew some would not escape.
"I realized that those on the other side of the bar would not get out alive."
"I was two meters from the door and I barely got out," she told The Associated Press. "People started pushing each other, stamping on each other, it was incredibly quick."
Once she got outside there was a blast and her hair caught fire, Tugui said.
"I tried to put it out with my hands and got burned. People behind me were burned from head to toe," she said. "Other people were hairless, their clothes were half-burned, and skin burned."
Thousands of people protested across Romania on Tuesday, demanding cabinet resignations as the death toll reached 32, with dozens more people in hospital critically hurt.
Angry about the way authorities grant permits and inspect public venues, protesters were still pouring into the streets late into the night, carrying banners saying "Corruption Kills" and chanting "Murderers!"
Dr Raed Arafat, head of the country's department of emergency situations, told CNN that fire officials had not issued any permits for a gathering of that size or for the use of fireworks.
Dr Arafat said many victims suffered smoke inhalation and some had severe burns up to 80% of their bodies.
Many of the injured were in critical condition at 12 hospitals, authorities said, and as many as 17 of the dead had still not been identified because of the severity of their burns.
Dr Arafat said hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of victims, and equipment from nonemergency hospitals had to be transferred to facilities treating the injured.
Following the government declared three days of mourning, and President Klaus Iohannis visited the hospital where many of the injured were taken.
The President left flowers outside the club, according to Romanian TV's Antena 3.
"I wanted to see the scene of the tragedy," the station quoted him as saying. "It's incredible. This location is completely unfit. ... It is unimaginable that this location hosted so many people at the concert. And it's unimaginable that this tragedy happened so quickly because simple rules were ignored."
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta handed in his resignation following the incident.
Prosecutors said they are investigating possible manslaughter charges.
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