Bucharest club chiefs flouted fire safety rules
Police in Bucharest last night opened a murder investigation into a fire that swept through a nightclub, leaving at least 27 dead and 180 injured, as authorities said its owners had flouted safety regulations.
Hundreds of people, some as young as 14, stampeded for the only available exit, as Colectiv, a club in the basement of a Communist-era factory filled with smoke.
Up to 400 people had gathered for the free concert on Friday night. It is believed there were a number of tourists at the club, but the identities of some of the dead remained unclear.
An Italian woman, two Spanish citizens and a German man were among the injured. Officials expect the death toll to rise.
The band had promised to give fans a "memorable show" featuring a pyrotechnic display. But the evening descended into horror when a spark from the fireworks set the acoustic foam on the ceiling alight.
Witnesses spoke of the panic and confusion that ensued, with the lead singer of the heavy metal band initially joking about the fire before it engulfed the basement club.
Delia Tugui, a Spanish teacher at a school in Bucharest, who was at the concert with her husband and son, said: "The lead singer made a quick joke about the fire: 'This wasn't part of the programme'. The next second, he realised it wasn't a joke and asked for a fire extinguisher.
"In 30 seconds the fire spread all over the ceiling. People rushed to the entrance but it was too narrow, and people panicked. I realised those on the other side of the bar would not get out alive."
Last night, it emerged that the club owners had been sanctioned by the authorities two weeks ago for breaking employment regulations.
A local police source said: "On October 21, the club owners were sanctioned because the owner did not have properly qualified employees working there - not even the bartenders were qualified.
"The club owners did have authorisation to run the night but not all the regulations were respected. There weren't enough emergency exits. There was just one and there should have been at least six.
"This is a low-budget club. It didn't have proper ventilation and didn't have authorisation to use fireworks."