By Caroline Hershey
On Jan. 26, over 230 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in southern Brazil, when the Kiss nightclub caught fire in the early hours of the morning.
The overcrowded club, filled past capacity with one thousand people, was the venue for a concert that ended in chaos and tragedy.
Sparklers used as part of pyrotechnic effects at the end of the show were the cause of sudden flames.
As people realized that the club’s ceiling had caught on fire, escaping was a near impossibility.
The venue’s single exit trapped concert-goers inside, and security blocked crowds because they believed patrons were trying to leave without paying.
Chaos and confusion ensued as fire extinguishers inside the club were found to be faulty and ineffective.
The club owner’s public health and fire safety license had expired last August and were not renewed.
The incident does not come without precedent. In the last 10 years, similar incidents have occurred at nightclubs in Russia, Thailand, China, Argentina and Rhode Island.
Due to a lack of proper safety inspections and precautions, these tragedies have been the result of illegal fireworks and untrained staff.
Looking at it from a student’s perspective, the incident raises questions about one’s safety while abroad.
Union hosts mini-terms and full-term study abroad programs in both South America and Asia, where safety regulations and standards are known to be less strictly enforced than they are in the United States.
MaryKate Strahle ‘14 just returned from a term abroad in Vietnam, where she described the over-crowding of restaurants and nightclubs.
“In Asia, I definitely felt that there were less rules in terms of safety. It was common for us to be packed into tight spaces and surrounded by huge crowds when we went out at night.”
In countries where safety and fire hazards aren’t a chief concern, it is important for students to constantly be aware of their surroundings in order to avoid potential danger.
As the friends and families of the Brazil victims mourn their tragic losses, and the death toll continues to rise, let us hope that safety is brought to the forefront and becomes a priority around the world.
In order to prevent these accidents from happening again, all places must be held to the highest standard.