Santa Maria Seeks Skin for Victims After Fire

In the wake of the Brazil nightclub tragedy, the country is still trying to figure out what to do with the remains of the over 230 people who died and a lack of skin for the survivors.

South America’s largest nation asked skin banks in neighboring countries, including Argentina, Uruguay and Peru for help in case they need assistance to perform grafts for those suffering severe burns.

Argentina sent over 15,000 square inches of skin and 20,000 amniotic membrane to those who were seriously burned in Brazil, said Argentine Health Minister Juan Manzur.

"The skin grafts are kept through organ donation. The commitment of those Argentineans who decided to donate organs of their dearly departed plays an important role in this kind of serious accidents," Manzur said, according to China's state-run news agency Xinhua.

Police investigating the blaze have said it likely started when a country music band performing at the Kiss nightclub in the college town of Santa Maria lit a flare, igniting flammable soundproofing foam on the ceiling. That initial error was compounded by the near-total lack of emergency infrastructure such as a fire alarms or sprinkler systems, police have said. The club also had only one working door and a faulty fire extinguisher.

The state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil announced a 30-day mourning period in the wake of the fire. About 50 funerals were expected to take place at the municipal cemetery in Santa Maria, but because of the number of the dead some of the bodies would have to be moved to another cemetery, local media reports indicated.

After his arrest, one of the club’s owners, Elissandro Spohr, attempted to hang himself with a shower hose and is now recovering in a hospital under police guard. Spohr is one of four men under arrest for involvement in the fire. The others are the club’s other owner, Mauro Hoffman, and two members of the band who purportedly lit the flare that started the fire.

Lilian Caus, one of the officers watching Spohr, said he had made a suicidal gesture, removing the shower hose and tying it to a bathroom window Tuesday.

"By the way it was tied, it looked like he wanted to use it to hang himself by the neck, but he didn't even use it," Caus said. "There seems to have been the intention to use it."

 “We are not investigating people, we are investigating the facts,” said police officer Marcelo Arigony, according to the Brazilian news agency O Globo. “The detention of the prisoners is important so they cannot influence what others have heard in the investigation.”

Spohr’s lawyers said on Wednesday that the club owner deflected blame to “the whole country,” as well as to architects and inspectors charged with making sure the building was safe.

Attorney Jader Marques said Spohr, his client, "regretted having ever been born" because of his grief over the fire, but still blamed Sunday's tragedy on "a succession of errors made by the whole country."

Marques insisted in a phone interview with The Associated Press that "my client's responsibility is having trusted too much in the inspectors and in those responsible for the construction."

"Hindsight is 20-20," he said, stressing that public officials had signed off on the club.

The number of injured jumped to 143 Wednesday after 22 people were admitted to hospitals with respiratory problems after having escaped the club apparently unharmed. Brazil Health Minister Alexandre Padilha has urged the fire's survivors to remain alert for any symptoms of so-called "chemical pneumonia," which can take up to three days to develop following exposure to toxic fumes and smoke.

The blaze also claimed another life late Tuesday, raising the death toll to 235, after a 21-year-old man with burns covering 70 percent of his body succumbed to his wounds. Brazilian media reported that the man's brother was also killed in the fire.

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