Tragedy struck at around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday at the nightclub when pyrotechnics set off by the band Gurizada Fandangueria apparently caught the ceiling on fire.
Rodrigo Martins a guitar player in the band told Radio Gaucha that the group “had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning.”
Most of the victims were college students who were not able to escape through the local’s sole entrance. Around 110 young people were wounded in the fire, with 79 in intensive care.
Hours after the fire, the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, expressed his condolences through a message sent to Archbishop Helio Adelar Rupert of Santa Maria.
Archbishop Rupert sent his own message expressing sadness over the tragedy and pledging the Church’s solidarity with “the families and all of society.”
“Do not lose hope: Let us pray to Jesus Christ, the source of life, our Savior. Let us pray for the deceased and their families and for all of society that is suffering from this tragedy,” he said.
The president of the World Youth Day Organizing Committee, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, said thousands of young people from Rio de Janeiro would hold a prayer vigil at the Cathedral of Rio to pray for the deceased, their families and those wounded.
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo asked priests in his archdiocese to celebrate Masses for the victims. “Our sadness is only greater knowing that the tragedy was the result of a series of errors and omissions that could have been avoided,” he said.
“May our Lady of Mercy cover the parents and family members of these young people with her mantle of love,” said Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte.
Prayers and Mass were also being sad at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patroness of Brazil.
The bishops and Catholic faithful across Brazil are voicing solidarity with the families of the 233 young people who died in a fire at the Kiss Nightclub Jan. 27 in the southern city of Santa Maria.