No alarm, extinguishers in Brazil nightclub fire
SANTA MARIA, Brazil — The nightclub Kiss was hot, steamy from the press of beer-fueled bodies dancing close. The Brazilian country band on stage was whipping the young crowd into a frenzy, launching into another fast-paced, accordion-driven tune and lighting flares that spewed silver sparks into the air.
It was another Saturday night in Santa Maria, a university town of about 260,000 on Brazil’s southernmost tip.
Then, in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, it turned into a scene of indescribable horror as sparks lit a fire in the soundproofing material above the stage, churning out black, toxic smoke as flames raced through the former beer warehouse, killing 231 people.
“I was right there, so even though I was far from the door, at least I realized something was wrong,” said Rodrigo Rizzi, a first-year nursing student who was next to the stage when the fire broke out and watched the tragedy unfold, horror-stricken and helpless.
“Others, who couldn’t see the stage, never had a chance. They never saw it coming.”
Death penalty imposed for 2003 Calif. Fire
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A methamphetamine addict with a violent history was sentenced to death Monday for setting the 2003 Old Fire in San Bernardino County that destroyed 1,000 homes and led to five deaths.
A jury in August convicted Rickie Lee Fowler of murder and arson for the blaze, which prosecutors said he deliberately set by tossing a lighted road flare into brush at the base of the mountains on an October day when Southern California already was overwhelmed by wind-fed wildfires. The same jury recommended in September that Fowler be sent to California’s death row.
Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith on Monday agreed, sentencing Fowler to death.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Bullock had portrayed Fowler as a sadistic felon who inflicted “misery and mayhem” on those who crossed his path throughout his life. The prosecution said he raped and brutalized two girlfriends, one of whom was pregnant with his son, and sodomized a jail cellmate, turning him into a “sex slave.”
The fire broke out Oct. 25, 2003, at Old Waterman Canyon Road and California State Highway 18. Flames raced through the forest and brush, forcing the evacuation of more than 30 communities and 80,000 people. Six men died of heart attacks, although prosecutors said one could not be directly attributed to stress from the fire.
Israel: Iran slowing nuclear program, won’t have bomb before 2015
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli intelligence officials now estimate that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016, pushing back by several years previous assessments of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Intelligence briefings given to McClatchy Newspapers over the last two months have confirmed that various officials across Israel’s military and political echelons now think it’s unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016.
“Previous assessments were built on a set of data that has since shifted,” said one Israeli intelligence officer, who spoke to McClatchy Newspapers only on the condition that he not be identified. He said that in addition to a series of “mishaps” that interrupted work at Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iranian officials appeared to have slowed the program on their own.
“We can’t attribute the delays in Iran’s nuclear program to accidents and sabotage alone,” he said. “There has not been the run towards a nuclear bomb that some people feared. There is a deliberate slowing on their end.”
Reports that Iran’s nuclear facility at Fordow had been damaged in a nuclear explosion were still being investigated Monday, Israeli officials said.
By wire sources