Yesterday, Brazil suffered one of the worst accidents in its history when 248 young people died in a night club fire in Santa Maria, a university city located in southern Brazil, 300 km from my city, Porto Alegre. 1,500 boys and girls were in the private club to commemorate their graduation when suddenly a pyrotechnic show started the fire that burned all the walls and the ceiling material. Very toxic smoke spread over the people who could not exit quickly enough through the front door. Many of them were trampled and crushed on the floor. Only 10% suffered serious burns with about 16 patients being treated in ICU burn centers in Santa Maria and Porto Alegre; however, many more out patients are coming for treatment.
Our southern Brazil chapter of plastic surgery, coordinated by the president, Paulo Amaral, promptly engaged more than 50 plastic surgeons from the area to help in this uncommon accident. We have received emails expressing solidarity from all around the world. Eduardo Leão in Belo Horizonte has opened his burn center to the victims. Our colleagues in Buenos Aires sent a message offering artificial skin. Einstein Hospital in São Paulo is sending a Task Force on Lung Bioquimic Diseases. So many other centers from all around South America are demonstrating their charity.
Our ”gaucho” families are suffering the second largest burn catastrophe in our country after the circus fire tragedy that occurred in Rio in 1961, and the third one to occur in worldwide night clubs. From this horrific tragedy, we have learned again that pyrotechnics inside a night club cannot be allowed; that building materials should be atoxic; that emergency exits are mandatory; and that occupancy laws must be obeyed.
Our plastic surgeon colleagues from South Brazil thank those who have sent so many messages of support and condolence from around the world in this moment of intense sorrow.
Carlos Uebel, MD, PhD