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Brazil club blaze survivor: 'An angel saved my life'

The death toll in that nightclub fire in Brazil has risen to 234, with many survivors still hospitalized. Mourners want answers and justice.   NBC's Keir Simmons reports. 

SANTA MARIA, Brazil -— At 2 a.m. on Rua Dos Andradas, a crowd of young people stands in silence. There is nothing to say.

As survivors try to cope with the aftermath of the horrific nightclub fire that killed over 130 in Santa Maria, Brazil, four people have been arrested. NBC's Keir Simmons reports.

Two nights ago, on this same street, at this same time, a tragedy unfolded that is hard to comprehend. 

Outside the Kiss nightclub, where a blaze and its panicked aftermath claimed the lives of at least 230 partygoers – most of them students at the local university – the smell of smoke lingers in the air.


Now it has become a place to mourn and remember.

Among the survivors is Adreen Righi, 20, who is still trying to make sense of how the disaster unfolded.

Felipe Dana / AP

A fast-moving nightclub inferno claimed the lives of more than 230 people in southern Brazil.

"I was dancing with my friends," she says, recovering at home. "People started pushing. I looked at the stage and there was smoke."

Pushed over in the panic, she was trampled to the ground but still found air. “Breathe, breathe, come on now breathe,” she told herself as others climbed over her.

Keir Simmons / NBC News

Mourners stand outside the Kiss nightclub in the early hours of Tuesday, two nights after a devastating fire killed at least 230 clubbers.

Then, she recalls, “an angel saved my life.” A woman she didn't know pushed her outside, to safety.

In the fresh air, she hugged her friends. But some were missing.

Her classmate, Juliano, had gone to the bathroom 15 minutes before the fire. She will never see him again.

“He was a good person,” she says, “always smiling. Making jokes. He was a good guy.”

She is “very happy” to be alive, but adds: “I can't explain how I feel about my friends, about the city.”

Santa Maria is in mourning, but there is also growing anger.

Investigators must now seek answers to the questions being asked here: Why did the nightclub apparently have only one exit? Why did fire extinguishers not work, as some witnesses have reported? Why did security staff briefly block exits to stop people leaving without paying their drinks tabs?

On the street outside the nightclub, a hand-made poster says: ‘Nada justifica, 231 assassinatos' – meaning ‘No justification – 231 murdered’.

The final death toll is still unclear, but the message is stark. 

Keir Simmons / NBC News

'No justification – 231 murdered'. A sign posted outside the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria.

Globo television said 53 seriously-injured victims remain in Porto Alegre, state capital of Rio Grande do Sul,where a support unit has also been set up with psychologists to help relatives of victims.

Police officials said four people are still under temporary arrest over the disaster. Local media reports on Monday said those detained were two owners of the Kiss club and two members of a band whose pyrotechnic display is thought to have set light to the club's sound-proofed ceiling. None of the arrests imply any criminal accusation, police said.

Protesters marched through the town late Monday, carrying flowers, balloons and placards with the names of the victims, according to Globo, which reported that as many as 30,000 took part.

Among them, Eglon Do Canto told The Associated Press: "We hope that the justice system, through its competent mechanisms, succeeds in clarifying to the public what happened, and gives the people an explanation."

Edgar Zuniga Jr, NBC News in Atlanta, contributed to this report.

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