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Sunday, 1 December, 2002, 23:57 GMT
Scores killed in Venezuela club fire
Goajira club in Caracas, Venezuela
The basement club was packed with people
At least 47 people have been killed in a fire at a crowded nightclub in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Most of the victims died of smoke inhalation after the fire broke out just before midnight on Saturday local time (0400GMT on Sunday) city fire officials said.


There were so many people everyone was trampled as they tried to get out - no one could breathe

Jenny Cisneros,
survivor
Thirty-two of the dead were men and 15 were women. Eight more people have been taken to hospital with moderate burns.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but Caracas fire chief Rodolfo Briceno said it could have been due to faulty wiring, a kitchen fire, or cigarette smoking.

There were as many as 400 people in the basement club at the time of the blaze, the fire chief said - more than the maximum number allowed by law.

Panic

Many tried to flee in panic when the fire broke out, but some escape routes were blocked, Mr Briceno said.

Jenny Cisneros, a survivor of the Caracas club fire, shows her bandaged arm
Jenny Cisneros was burned in the fire
"Everything went up in flames. There were so many people everyone was trampled as they tried to get out. No one could breathe," Jenny Cisneros, 29, told The Associated Press. She suffered burns on her arms and legs.

"They were climbing all over each other to get out," Rafael Chacon, a 19-year-old student who lives across from the club, told the Reuters news agency.

"They were carrying out bodies all night," he added.

Firefighters lined bodies up on the street before loading them onto jeeps. Reuters reported that many did not appear to be burned.

'Burning fiercely'

Almost 100 firefighters fought the blaze, which was well advanced when they arrived, Mr Briceno said.

"When we got here, the fire was burning fiercely and there was a big column of smoke. There was a lot of panic," he said.

Scene of the fire at La Goajira nightclub in Caracas, Venezuela
More than 500 people were evacuated from the area around the Goajira nightclub, located in the basement of a small hotel in a poor neighbourhood of central Caracas.

Officials say this was the deadliest nightclub fire in the city's history.

A blaze that killed 25 people in 1985 had previously been the worst.

Sixteen were killed in a fire in a maximum security prison in the west of the country in November 1997.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Easton reports from Caracas
"Panic broke out in the small basement club"
See also:

22 Oct 01 | Americas
23 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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