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Exits Locked in Fire, Police Say

August 03, 2004|From Times Wire Services

ASUNCION, Paraguay — Survivors of a supermarket blaze in Paraguay that killed at least 318 people found exit doors locked and in one case welded shut as they desperately tried to flee the inferno, police and witnesses said Monday.

"Several witnesses ... saw how they shut the doors," Paraguayan Police Chief Humberto Nunez said. "We also confirmed that the emergency exit was welded." Firefighters had found the main doors shut, he added.

Prosecutors are investigating whether guards blocked exits in a bid to prevent theft. The market's two owners, a manager and a security official were held for questioning. The market's main shareholder said no order was given to lock the doors.

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