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Blaze kills 149, injures 360 in club in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES -- A fire swept through a packed nightclub during a rock concert late last night, killing at least 149 people and injuring 360 as young concert-goers scrambled for the exits, officials said today.

The Republica de la Cromagnon disco in the Argentine capital quickly filled with smoke, setting off a stampede for the emergency exits, witnesses said. Television images showed the bodies of youngsters curled up on the sidewalk as bystanders carried people out of the building.

''People were pushing and jumping over each other trying to get out," concert-goer Jose Maria Godoy said. ''It was like a human wave. As people fell down running for the door, others just simply ran over them or pushed them down."

Alfredo Stern, an official in the Buenos Aires health department, said at least 149 had been killed. At least 14 hospitals handled the injured.

City officials said it wasn't immediately clear what caused the fire, but several witnesses said they saw a lit flare hit foam lining on the roof of concert hall, triggering a fire.

''Someone from the crowd tossed a flare and there were immediately flames," said Fabian Zamudeo, 22, one of at least 1,500 attending the concert of Los Callejeros, a Argentine rock band.

''Parts of the roof started falling down in flames and people started running, knocking over the speakers and light stands," he added. ''People were choking on smoke and I tried to push as many people out as I could."

Hundreds of bystanders and relatives stood outside the building as rescue workers carried some of the wounded away on stretchers. Others could be seen treating the injured on the street.

An unidentified youngster told a television network that the heavy smoke quickly filled up the concert hall.

''We could barely see, there was so much smoke," he said. ''People were kicking the doors down trying to get out."

The fire recalled the blaze at the Station Nightclub in Warwick, R.I., in February 2003. A pyrotechnics display at the start of heavy metal band Great White's concert ignited soundproofing material at the nightclub, killing 100 people.

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