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Brazilian president visits improvised morgue for 200 fire victims


RIO DE JANEIRO, (Xinhua): Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Sunday visited an improvised morgue for victims of a nightclub fire in southern Brazil as condolences flow in over the tragic incident.

After the deadly blaze, Rousseff canceled several bilateral meetings scheduled on the sidelines of the first summit between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union (EU) Santiago, Chile, and was headed to Santa Maria in Southern Brazil where the fire broke out.

Visiting the make-shift morgue improvised from a local sports center, Rousseff was visibly moved by the sight of the dead bodies arranged for identification, and shed tears as she tried to console some of the relatives of the deceased.

She remained at the site for some 15 minutes, accompanied by state Governor Tarso Genro and other officials, then left without making any statements to the press.

More than 230 people died in the small hours of Sunday when the fire broke out in the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, a major university city at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay. It was reportedly caused by a band member performing on stage fireworks.

Officials said there were around 500 people then in the nightclub, a popular hanging-out spot among local youths and college students.

The president told Brazilian reporters earlier in Santiago, "I would like to say to the people of our country and of Santa Maria how united we are at this sad time and we will necessarily overcome, preserving the sorrow."

The federal government will do everything necessary to aid the families of the victims, she said.

Political leaders attending the CELAC-EU summit were among the first to express their sadness over the tragic incident and conveyed their condolences to the families affected.

While addressing the summit's closing ceremony, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said heads of state and government attending the summit expressed solidarity with the people of Brazil for the tragedy.

Chile's Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno echoed those sentiments, saying "I would like to express our condolences to the people and the government of our sister country Brazil."

President of the European Council Herman von Rompuy expressed his "deep sorrow" to Rousseff for the tragedy.

Summit participants also observed a minute of silence for the fire victims.

A spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement early Sunday, saying the UN chief was saddened by the loss of life in the nightclub fire.

In the statement, Ban also expressed his condolences to the families and friends of those "whose lives were lost, as well as to the Brazilian government and people at large at this time of national mourning."

In Brazil, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the country is "sad and in mourning," and commiserated with the parents of the young victims.

"All of Brazil is sad and in mourning for the deaths that took place in Santa Maria. At this difficult time, we express our solidarity with the friends and relatives of the victims and the entire population of the city, but especially with the fathers and mothers for their irreparable loss," Lula wrote on behalf of his wife and himself.

In the wake of the tragic club fire, Brazilian authorities decided to postpone an event celebrating Brazil's hosting of the 2014 World Cup. The 500-day countdown celebration was originally set for Monday at National Stadium in Brazil's capital Brasilia.

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