Romania nightclub death toll could rise 'significantly'

Romanians wept, cursed and prayed Sunday as they mourned the victims of a fire in a nightclub, while doctors warned the death toll could rise "significantly" because so many of the injured have severe burns.

Tragedy in Bucharest has killed 29 so far and left dozens badly burned

March for club fire victims

7 years ago
Duration 1:35
Thousand march through Bucharest, Romania for the victims of a nightclub fire that killed 29 people

Romanians wept, cursed and prayed Sunday as they mourned the victims of a fire in a nightclub, while doctors warned the death toll could rise "significantly" because so many of the injured have severe burns.

As the nation entered its second day of mourning, thousands paid their respects at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest's 4th district — the scene of Friday's tragedy that so far has killed 29 people and left dozens badly burned.

People, lit by burning candles, stand outside the compound that housed a nightclub where the fire occurred in Bucharest, Romania. Flames spread quickly through the crowded basement club, trapping many and triggering a stampede. (Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press)

In a separate show of grief, thousands walked silently through the capital city of three million Sunday afternoon, carrying flowers and photographs of the dead.

Over 140 people are still hospitalized around the Romanian capital and 90 of them are in serious condition, said Raed Arafat, an emergency situations official. He added that the death toll could double.

Treating victims of a nightclub fire is more complicated than treating someone for a localized burn, Arafat said.

"Many sustained burns to their trachea and lungs, aggravated by the kind of noxious gasses you find in foam and furniture which give off toxic substances such as cyanide. Also many people were trampled on," he said. "From this point of view, the prognostic and chances [of survival] are reduced."

Complex and costly treatments

Ioan Lascar, a doctor at the Floreasca Emergency Hospital agreed the death toll could rise "significantly" because so many of the injured have severe burns.

"Treatment for burns is the most complex and costly treatment imaginable," he said. "We are talking about long-term hospitalization: a month, a month and a half, two, sometimes even more."

Lascar said the emergency hospital had performed 11 tracheotomies over the weekend to help victims of the accident breathe because they had suffered burns to their lungs. The procedure involves an incision being made to the windpipe, and a tube is inserted which is connected to a ventilation machine, which provides more oxygen to the lungs.

A woman cries during a mourning march joined by thousands in Bucharest. (Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press)

As doctors announced that two more people had died Sunday, mourners gathered outside the shuttered club, some weeping, others standing silently, apparently dazed by the tragedy, the biggest of its kind in Romania. Journalists and police officers, who were working, also appeared visibly moved by the outpouring of grief and emotion.

People laid down white and yellow chrysanthemums, one wrapped in a musical score, and placed red and white candles to create a sea of tiny flickering flames, in an echo of the inferno that erupted at the basement nightclub in the shabby four-storey building during a rock concert with the band Goodbye to Gravity.

Meanwhile, forensic experts began the first autopsies of victims.

Angry calls for punishment

Amid the tears, there were bursts of anger and calls for punishing those deemed responsible for what happened. Witnesses said the fire started as a pyrotechnics show ignited foam, which led to a stampede to a single exit from the club.

"The owners of the nightclub and authorities should be punished for allowing this to happen," said Anne-Marie Duminica, 36. "I hope they rot in prison."

There has been widespread anger that the club had only one exit door, the rock band used fireworks in its repertoire, and the ceiling and pillars were clad in flammable foam. Criticism has also been raised against Romania's lax fire regulations.

A member of the Romanian metal band Goodbye to Gravity performs as fireworks erupt on the stage prior to the fire breaking out in the nightclub. (Vlad Busca/Reuters)

Law enforcement officials are still collecting evidence from the scene.

Duminica, a government adviser for small business, comforted her weeping friend Alexandra Sivu, whose best friend, blogger and photographer Claudiu "Bubu" Petre, died in an ambulance after he had returned to the raging fire to try and save others.

"Tell the world that Bubu went back to save people. He is a hero," Duminica said. "Rockers are not bad people as some say. He had a wonderful heart."

In churches around the fervently religious country, churchgoers prayed, and a moment of silence was held in some churches.

On Saturday, the government declared three days of mourning.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?