Nightclub fire kills 15 veterinary students

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The fire at the Kiss nightclub Jan. 27 in Santa Maria, Brazil, claimed the lives of more than 230, including a group of local veterinary students.

Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the country’s borders with Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city, with a population of around 250,000. The fire is believed to have started around 2:30 a.m.; firefighters worked for three hours to contain the blaze. News reports say up to 2,000 people—mostly students—were in the nightclub when the fire started.

A total of 113 students from the Federal University of Santa Maria perished, including 64 from the Rural Sciences Center. Fifteen of those students were with the College of Veterinary Medicine, according to Flavia Tonin, a spokesperson for the university.

One veterinary class lost five students, said Dr. Alexander W. Biondo, an associate professor of molecular biology at the University of Illinois, who completed his master’s at Santa Maria. The Santa Maria veterinary college admits two classes per year, with around 50 total in each class.

A letter published online by the Brazilian Federal Council of Veterinary Medicine, the country’s equivalent of the AVMA, expressed sympathy for the families and friends of the victims.

Most of the victims died of suffocation or were trampled in the stampede toward the venue’s only emergency exit, according to reports.