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Blaze Races Through Swedish Disco, Killing 60

October 30, 1998| From Times Wire Services

STOCKHOLM — Fire raced through an upstairs discotheque jammed with hundreds of teenagers attending a Halloween dance in the southwestern city of Goteborg early today, killing at least 60 people.

About 190 were injured in the fire, which broke out about midnight in a Macedonian cultural center. A discotheque was housed on the second story of the brick building.

The immigrant group had organized a dance for young people, mostly between the ages of 13 and 18, to celebrate Halloween, officials said.

"We are still searching the building . . . but so far we have found 60 dead," police official Jan Edmundson of Goteborg, Sweden's second-largest city, said on Swedish national radio. "What we know is that there was an explosion."

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. But local rescue service leader Lennart Olin said there were signs that the fire was set, the Swedish news agency TT reported.

"The fact that it spread so fast indicates that it was not a normal fire," he said.

The building had been inspected by the rescue service in April 1997 and "fulfilled all possible demands as far as emergency exits and the possibility for fast evacuation," Olin said.

Officials said desperate young people searching for their friends among the survivors impeded rescue efforts.

The news agency reported that about 190 wounded had been brought from the scene to hospitals in private cars, taxis and buses.

"We have had a catastrophic fire in a disco. We never thought something like this could happen in Sweden," Olin said.

Panic struck on the dance floor when the fire was discovered. There was only one exit.

Jamal Fawz, 15, told TT that he was on the dance floor when the blaze started.

"It looked like it started in the ceiling, and lamps and loudspeakers fell to the floor," he was quoted as saying.

"It was chaos. Everybody was trying to get out, and people trampled on each other on the way to the exit. . . . Others kicked out the windows and jumped out," said Fawz, who estimated there were about 400 people inside.

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