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Brazil club owner blames ‘whole country’

SANTA MARIA, Brazil — The owner of a nightclub in southern Brazil where more than 230 people died in a fire last weekend deflected blame to “the whole country,” as well as to architects and inspectors charged with making sure the building was safe, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Attorney Jader Marques said his client, Elissandro Spohr, “regretted having ever been born” because of his grief over the fire, but he still blamed Sunday’s tragedy on “a succession of errors made by the whole country.”

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Police investigating the blaze have said it probably started when a country music band performing at the Kiss nightclub lit a flare, which ignited flammable soundproofing foam on the ceiling. That initial error was compounded by the near-total lack of emergency infrastructure, such as fire alarms or sprinkler systems, police have said. The club in the college town of Santa ­Maria also had only one working door and a faulty fire extinguisher.

Marques insisted in a phone interview that “my client’s responsibility is having trusted too much in the inspectors and in those responsible for the construction.”

“Hindsight is 20-20,” he said, emphasizing that public officials had signed off on the club.

The number of injured jumped to 143 Wednesday after 22 people were admitted to hospitals with respiratory problems after escaping the club apparently unharmed. Health Minister Alexandre Padilha has urged the survivors to remain alert for symptoms of “chemical pneumonia,” which can take up to three days to develop following exposure to toxic fumes and smoke.

The blaze claimed another life late Tuesday, raising the death toll to 235, as a 21-year-old man with burns covering 70 percent of his body succumbed to his wounds.

The man’s older brother was also killed and buried on Sunday.

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