Death toll up to 50 in nightclub fire

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Investigators recovered three more bodies from the debris of a downtown Caracas nightclub destroyed by a fast-moving fire over the weekend, raising the death toll to 50, officials said Monday.

Flames quickly engulfed the tiny nightclub packed with hundreds of dancers but lacking emergency exits, triggering a panicky stampede late Saturday. Twelve people were injured at La Goajira discotheque.

Faulty wiring, a kitchen fire or even a carelessly discarded cigarette were all possible causes of the blaze, which erupted near the club's entrance, Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno said. The investigation continued Monday.

Forensic experts recovered the bodies of two women and a man from the scene Monday, bringing the number of dead to 50, Carmen Julieta Centeno, director of a government forensics agency, told The Associated Press.

Nearly all the dead succumbed to the smoke.

Authorities also identified 26 of the victims and transferred the remains to their families, Centeno said.

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