Overheated electrical wires may sparked deadly disco fire

MEXICO CITY - The disco where a fire killed 19 patrons had three exits - but two of them were blocked, authorities said Saturday after a preliminary investigation.

The blaze broke out before dawn Friday in one of the city's glitziest clubs, The Lobohombo, sending panicked patrons fleeing to the disco's only exit. Survivors said guards blocked them from leaving the burning building until they could prove they had paid their bills.

The exact cause of the fire remained under investigation, but officials said Saturday that overheated electrical wires appeared to have sparked it.

Meanwhile, a search continued Saturday for the disco's owners, and Mexico City's mayor called for homicide charges against one of the owners.

Even before Friday's fire, the club - famous for its mirrored facade and popular among celebrities - had run afoul of local authorities, who repeatedly tried to shut the club down for code violations.

Lobohombo was operating with a permit for a restaurant rather than a nightclub, authorities said. Its 4,700 square feet surpassed the size permitted by law and the club often held thousands more that its maximum capacity of 1,000 people, they said.

But the owners, who have 80 other nightclubs throughout Mexico City, were able to get nearly a dozen federal injunctions to keep it open, said city official Maria Inez Munoz.

That prompted allegations of corruption. City legislators called for changes to the injunction law that would block ''the capital's powerful economic interests from opening illegal businesses.''

Mayor Rosario Robles criticized the judges who issued the injunctions, saying the city would lodge a complaint against them. She also called for officials to detain owner Alejandro Iglesias Rebollo on homicide charges.

An attorney for the disco's owners, Victor Trejo Sanchez, denied that officials had tried to close Lobohombo. City officials inspected and approved the club in June, he told the Radio Red network.

Survivor Salvador Garcia, interviewed by Televisa news from his hospital bed, said the crowd began to panic once the lights went out.

''Everyone started pushing each other and running over each other, and in the middle of the tragedy, I asked God to help me,'' he recalled. ''I threw myself into the crowd and two of my colleagues pulled me out of there.''

Sara Falcon said patrons rushed for the only exit, but were held back by guards.

Two of the club's three exits were blocked, the city's attorney general's office said Saturday.

''People were on fire, yelling and throwing themselves to the floor,'' she told TV Azteca news. ''Others were yelling, 'Open the door because people are burning!'''


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