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The BBC's Frank Contreras in Mexico City
"City authorities say they'll investigate dozens of other nightspots"
 real 28k

The BBC's Faye Hawker
"The authorities estimate there were some one thousand clubbers in the building"
 real 28k

Friday, 20 October, 2000, 23:48 GMT 00:48 UK
Mexican nightclub owner sought
The fire at Lobohombo disco
At least 20 people were killed in the fire
Mexico City police have ordered the arrest of the owner of a popular nightclub which burned down early Friday morning, killing 20 people and injuring 40 others.

Alejandro Iglesias, an alleged mafia leader, has been charged with a number of crimes, including homicidal negligence and breaking safety codes.

The faulty wiring in the building was ignored by the judge who granted the disco an operating license

City official

"I've ordered my attorney general to act quickly to arrest the owner for manslaughter," Mexico City Mayor Rosario Robles said.

"His houses are being watched and we hope to obtain search warrants."

Investigators found evidence of a short circuit after digging through the ashes.

They have blamed that for the blaze which engulfed Lobohombo discotheque - one of the best-known and biggest in Mexico, with up to 3,000 visitors per night.

Guards: 'Pay tabs first'

Ambulances wait outside the club on Friday morning
Dozens of fire fighters were called to control the blaze at 0500 on Friday (1000 GMT) as hundreds of the bar's occupants fought each other to escape the building.

Some who escaped said security guards at the door forced clients to prove they had paid their bar tabs before allowing them to exit the burning room.

The authorities have estimated that there were some 1,000 clubbers in the two-storey building at the time.

Some clubbers are believed to be missing, and the authorities fear the number of casualties may rise when all the rubble is removed.

No fire escape

Initial investigations showed the disco was in violation of almost all existing fire safety codes.

Map of Mexico City
"The club did not have an emergency exit and their electrical and gas connections did not comply with the law", said city official Dolores Padierna.

"The faulty wiring in the building was ignored by the judge that granted the disco an operating license," said Luis Wintergerts, director of the city's civil protection agency.

Another official said it was common for nightclub owners to bribe judges to ignore code violations.

Clashes with authorities

City officials had repeatedly clashed with Mr Iglesias in the courts, said Maria Inez Munoz, a spokesperson for the Cuauhtemoc borough in which the nightclub is located.

Ms Munoz said it was "a place with many problems".

A firefighter looks out from a hole in club's charred facade
She said earlier this year, city officials had tried to close the club because it did not have a permit for table dancing.

But the owner had obtained a federal court injunction to remain open.

The bar had been closed by authorities in 1997 because of safety, security and administrative issues.

It was later allowed to remain open after Mr Iglesias won a series of court injunctions.

Mr Iglesias and his brothers own more than 100 other strip clubs in the Mexican capital which often hire women from the United States, Asia and Europe.

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See also:

20 Oct 00 | Americas
Mexico club blaze kills 19
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Factory fire kills 15 in Egypt
08 Jun 00 | Europe
Sweden disco fire: Four jailed
25 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostel fire victims remembered
29 Mar 00 | Far East
Fire kills 74 in Chinese cinema
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