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1970: Nightclub inferno 'wipes out generation'

A fire at a nightclub in France has killed 142 people, most of them teenagers.

The club, a mile from the town of St Laurent du Pont, near Grenoble, was packed with revellers when the fire started at around 0145 local time (0045 GMT).

A fire department spokesman said the partly-wooden building "went up like a box of matches" and the victims perished within 10 minutes.

Many of the interior fittings, including the ceiling, were flammable, the spokesman said, but many people might have escaped from the Club Cinq-Sept had emergency exits not been blocked.

Firefighters found bodies piled five deep around the exits which had been padlocked and barred with planks to keep out gatecrashers.

It is believed some dancers were trampled to death in a stampede as people rushed to get out of the dance hall through the main entrance.

Only 60 of the 180 people in the building are believed to have escaped - many of them are in hospital with up to 90% burns.

Herve Bozonnet, who got out virtually unscathed, said: "It was ghastly. People on the dance floor were engulfed by burning plastic from the ceiling."

Close-knit

Another survivor, 17-year-old Dominique Guette, said: "We tried to break down emergency exits but it was impossible."

Only half of the bodies have so far been identified.

Relatives were shown only pieces of clothing or charred personal possessions as many victims were burned beyond recognition.

Most came from the close-knit town of St Laurent du Pont where nearly every family has suffered a loss.

Some of the dead are believed to have been students at Grenoble University which has a large number of foreign students.

Two of the club's three managers were among the fatalities.

The surviving manager, Gilbert Bas, is being questioned by police.

In Context
The final death toll was 146.

An official inquiry was ordered when it emerged the night club, built seven months previously, had never been inspected to see if it met fire safety regulations.

The only fire in France to kill more was a blaze at a department store in Paris in 1921 when 150 died.

The world's worst nightclub fire is believed to have happened in November 1942 when 491 people died at the Cocoanut Grove club in Boston, USA.


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