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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 February, 2003, 01:53 GMT
Death toll rises in US club inferno
Firefighter at the scene
Firefighters are continuing to search the remains of the club
At least 95 people are now known to have died in a massive blaze at a rock club in the eastern US state of Rhode Island.

Officials in the town of West Warwick said that number could rise further, with the search for bodies continuing and more than 180 people injured, some of them critically.

The Station Concert Club was engulfed by flames within minutes of the fire breaking out during an pyrotechnics display at a rock concert.

The owners of The Station, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, have said they had not authorised the band performing at the club to use pyrotechnics.

It was the worst thing I've ever seen
Michelle Craine, witness

"At no time did either owner have prior knowledge that pyrotechnics were going to be used by the band Great White," a statement released by lawyers acting for the two brothers said.

Earlier Jack Russell, the lead singer of Great White said the band had been given permission to use the fireworks.

The band's guitarist Ty Longley is reported to be among the missing.

Missing

Some of the dead were killed by the fire and smoke, others are believed to have been trampled as people rushed for the exits.

"We think we have recovered all of the bodies," Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri said.

Fewer than 10 bodies have so far been identified.

Rescuers aid an injured person on a stretcher

Witnesses have been describing the horror of fire which took hold at about 2300 local time on Thursday (0400 GMT) at the start of the act by the heavy metal band.

Michelle Craine of West Warwick, who was waiting to hear about a missing friend, told the Associated Press news agency that many people were terribly injured.

"They were completely burnt. They had pieces of flesh falling off them," she said.

"It was the worst thing I've ever seen," she said.

A spokesman for nearby Kent Hospital said people had been treated for a range of injuries including burns, smoke inhalation and cuts.

Panic

West Warwick Fire Chief Charles Hall said the entire club was consumed by flames within three minutes.

He said that in their rush to escape, people had neglected to use three fire exits and some had been trampled in the scrum.

US club fires
Worst blaze in living memory was at the Cocoanut Grove club, Boston, in 1942 when 491 people died
A fire at a social club in The Bronx, New York, in 1990 claimed 87 lives

"People were new to the club. As is human nature, they tried to get back out the way they came in," he said.

The fire chief added that the club had recently passed a fire inspection, but did not have a city permit for pyrotechnics.

There was no sprinkler system - such a system was not mandatory because of the club's small size.

It is the second nightclub tragedy in the US in less than a week.

At least 21 people were killed in a stampede after pepper spray was used to break up a fight at a nightclub in Chicago on Sunday night.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Frei
"This was a tragedy caught on film from the very beginning"



SEE ALSO:
In Pictures: Disco blaze
21 Feb 03 |  Photo Gallery
Chicago club owners face charges
18 Feb 03 |  Americas
'People stood and watched'
21 Feb 03 |  Americas


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