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Mexico City nightclub fire

Twenty people have been confirmed dead in a fire at one of Mexico City's most exclusive nightclubs.

The glitzy, Lobohombo club with a large, mirrored facade, was one of the best known nightclubs in Mexico City. Gloria Estefan held a party there in August and salsa superstar Willie Colon performed there.

Police said the club was full with violations including no emergency exits. Several survivors said they were blocked from leaving the burning building by security staff asking them to pay their bills first.

Sara Falcon, one survivor, said she and several others were begging to get out, saying: "Please! It's burning! Open the door!"

"Everyone was shouting," she told TV Azteca, wiping away tears.

"Many people were on fire, yelling and throwing themselves on the floor. Others were yelling, 'Open the door because people are burning!"'

Her aunt, Lorena Falcon Perez said one of her daughters-in-law "lost her shoe running around trying to find an emergency exit, but there wasn't one."

The guards eventually let the women leave but Perez's 16-year-old daughter suffered third-degree burns and was in critical condition at a local hospital.

The survivors of one of Mexico City's most popular night clubs said they were blocked from leaving the burning building by disco personnel who insisted they pay their bills first. The blaze killed 20, and injured two dozen more.

The club was still packed at 5 a.m. when the blaze started Friday. Surrounded by smoke, Sara Falcon, one survivor, said she and others were begging to get out, saying: "Please! It's burning! Open the door!"

"Everyone was shouting," she told TV Azteca news, wiping away tears. "Many people were on fire, yelling and throwing themselves on the floor. Others were yelling, 'Open the door because people are burning!"'

Witnesses said patrons panicked when smoke began filling the disco, and began scrambling to escape out the club's only exit. The building had no emergency exits, authorities said.

Falcon's aunt, Lorena Falcon Perez, said her 16-year-old daughter was trapped in the flames, and later carried out of the building as chunks of burning wood fell to the ground. She suffered third-degree burns and was in critical condition at a local hospital.


Lucia Diaz, 25, sister of Rafael Diaz, 24, a cashier at the Lobohombo nightclub, wipes a tear while waiting for an update

"When the doctors told me about my daughter, I fainted," Falcon Perez said. "It's not right what those (owners of the disco) did. A place that has events like this should at least be safe."

The glitzy Lobohombo club was one of the best known nightclubs in North America's largest city. Gloria Estefan held a party there in August and salsa superstar Willie Colon had performed there.

Police said a short circuit in the sound booth may have sparked the blaze, but firefighters said witnesses reported hearing several explosions. The blaze was extinguished before dawn.

Hours after the tragedy, hundreds milled outside the charred building, its mirrored facade shattered and blackened with smoke. Its trademark, a large sign featuring the face of a cartoon dog, was gone.

Authorities said the club had a long history of legal problems, repeatedly clashing in court with the city.

Lobohombo was operating with a permit for a restaurant rather than a nightclub, authorities said. Its 4,700 square feet (423 square meters) surpassed the maximum size permitted by law. The club had a capacity for more than 1,000 people, but at times held up to 3,000.

Authorities shut the club down 11 times for code violations but the owners managed to renegotiate its reopening each time, said Dolores Padierna, a local neighborhood representative.

Earlier this year, officials ordered the club closed because it lacked a permit for table dancing. The disco had featured female dancers.

The owner secured a federal court injunction allowing it to stay open, said local official Maria Inez Munoz.

An attorney for the club's owner, Alejandro Iglesias Rebollo, disputed the allegations that officials had tried to close down the club.

City officials inspected and approved the club in June, attorney Victor Trejo Sanchez told the Radio Red network.

The Iglesias family owns more than 80 nightclubs in the city. Authorities said many have been cited for violations. A month ago, authorities closed their bar La Luna after discovering drugs were being sold there. A few months before that, police arrested a group of women for dancing naked at one of their other bars, Hawaii.

According to the National Association of Discos and Bars, 15,000 establishments are in violation of the minimum operating norms in Mexico. Violations range from closing long after the set hours of operation to allowing prostitution and drugs.

 
 
 
   
 
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