Nightly News | January 28, 2013
>>> saddest news this weekend. over 230 people killed in a single, horrifying incident. and beyond the tragedy itself, it made so many people think of their own lives and situations they've been in, and incidents like it in the past. a nightclub in brazil, packed with happy people on a saturday night, listening to a band at 2:30 in the morning. suddenly, a fire. started small and then engulfed the club, filling it with smoke and hundreds of people in a panic. it got more urgent and complicated when some of the victims weren't allowed out. and today we learned of arrests and an investigation that is just getting under way. nbc's keir simmons is with us tonight to start us off from santa maria , brazil. keir, good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian . the death toll here is almost unimaginable. the gymnasium behind me became a makeshift morgue. more than 230 lives were lost, and scores more are still hospitalized. survivors said it was like a horror movie. a nightclub turned death trap .
>> i have been in the nightclub before.
>> reporter: audrey narrowly escaped. what did you see?
>> people crying. people dying in my sight.
>> reporter: hundreds of others, including two of her friends, did not.
>> i lost very special people to me.
>> reporter: today, the funerals began. so many dead, the coffins laid out in rows. found here by grieving loved ones . on saturday night, they had packed the kiss nightclub. survivors say the band set off pyrotechnics, igniting a fire in the ceiling. it spread in seconds, filling the club with smoke. the crowd panicked. confused security guards at first blocked the exits. in the stampede, audrey was nearly trampled. but she could breathe. but someone pulled her to safety. this is the club before the disaster. no windows. the front door, the only exit. early sunday morning, it was chaos. a struggle to revive victims. some survivors searched for loved ones . others smashed holes to let people escape. but for most, it was too late. bodies were piled up inside. most overcome by smoke. the bodies have been removed, but you can still smell the smoke and on the sidewalk flowers. the victims' names and faces are now filling brazilian tv and social media . many were students, teenagers. santa maria is a university town .
>> i'm very happy that i'm here. but i cannot explain how i feel about my friends. about the city.
>> reporter: four arrests have been made so far. reportedly, a club co-owner and two band members. brazil is in mourning, as everyone tries to make sense of it all. brian , this is the deadliest fire this country has seen in more than half a century. they blocked doors because they thought that young people hadn't paid for their drinks, and many back in the u.s. will be reminded of a terrible tragedy ten years ago in rhode island . again, a packed nightclub, a fire, and panic that ended in tragedy. back then, 100 lives were lost. here in brazil, that death toll has more than doubled. and brian , tonight, a fourth arrest here.
>> what a terrible story. keir simmons starting us off in brazil tonight. thanks.