At least 27 people died and another 180 were injured after pyrotechnic display sparked blaze during concert at Colectiv venue in Romanian capital.
A fire sparked by stage pyrotechnics at a nightclub in the centre of Bucharest has left at least 27 people dead and 180 injured.
There were 300 to 400 people in the Colectiv Club in the Romanian capital on Friday night. Some remained unaccounted for on Saturday morning.
According to one witness speaking to Romanian media, a fireworks display around the stage set nearby objects alight. Another witness told Reuters that a pillar and the club’s ceiling caught fire, then there was an explosion and heavy smoke.
“There was a stampede of people running out of the club,” a man who escaped without shoes told Reuters.
A young woman who sustained minor injuries described the club bursting into flames. “In five seconds the whole ceiling was all on fire. In the next three we rushed to a single door,” she told television station Antena 3.
The victims were admitted to 10 hospitals in Bucharest, said Raed Arafat, the head of emergency response at the interior ministry.
“The situation is slowly stabilising … we have many people with burns, intoxicated with smoke and people squashed,” he said.
Arafat, who was visiting each of the hospitals to console families and check on the situation, told the Guardian: “This incident is unprecedented in Romania. All of the wounded have now been identified, and those who died are being examined by the medical examiners.”
Media reported that clubgoers initially thought the flames were part of the show and did not immediately react.
Victor Ionescu, who was at the club with his girlfriend, told Antena 3 TV by telephone that there were huge flames.
“People were fainting, they were fainting from the smoke. It was total chaos, people were trampling on each other,” he said.
A young man filmed by Antena 3 said that fire engulfed clubgoers, burning their skin and hair.
Some people were initially treated on the streets outside and others taken to hospitals. Two of the band playing on stage were said to be in a critical condition.
Early on Saturday morning at one of the main hospitals, the Universitar, crowds of poeple waited for news about friends and loved ones. Inside orderlies call the names of families to come forward.
A man in his mid-20s waiting at the hospital told the Guardian: “I found out two of my colleagues were there tonight. They are doing badly. They are currently in intensive care, with severe burns.
“Doctors keep giving numbers of how badly burnt they are but it is hard to tell. I wasn’t there but live nearby and heard the fire trucks and ambulances. I checked with my friends and colleagues to make sure everyone was all right and found out about the two.
“Around 10 of us have come down to the hospital. The families have seen them but now we won’t know more until the morning. Tomorrow is probably going to be the hardest day.”
Romanian media reported that a code red was declared, with off-duty doctors and nurses at nearby hospitals being called in to help deal with the emergency.
Romania’s health minister, Nicolae Bănicioiu, said that “every effort is being made to save those who can be saved. The victims are being transported to emergency hospitals. Doctors and nurses have been called in from home, ventilators have been redistributed from other hospitals.”
Many of the victims did not have identification on them. The government set up a hotline for people who might have known someone at the club.
President Klaus Iohannis said he was shocked by the deaths. “It is a very sad day for all of us, for our nation and for me personally,” he said in a statement published online. “I am deeply grieved by the tragic events that happened this evening.
“I assure the families affected by this terrible event of the full support of those involved in the rescue operations and I ask them to trust that the responsible institutions are doing their best to limit the effects of the catastrophe. I urge you all to stand together by the grieving families and prove our solidarity and compassion.”
One line of inquiry being pursued by investigators, according to local media, was whether the club had the necessary fire safety permits.
Romania’s interior minister, Gabriel Oprea, went to the nightclub, along with emergency services. An emergency meeting of cabinet ministers was set for early on Saturday.