Nightclub Fire Kills at Almost 100

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A nightclub erupted in a raging fire during a pyrotechnics display at a rock concert, killing at least 95 people and injuring more than 160 others as frantic mobs rushed to escape.

The death toll rose as firefighters searched through the charred shell of the single-story wood building. Gov. Don Carcieri said the number of dead had reached 95 by late Friday afternoon.

It was the deadliest U.S. nightclub fire since 164 people were killed at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., in 1977. It also came less than a week after 21 people were killed in a stampede at a Chicago nightspot.

The entire club was engulfed in flames within three minutes, Fire Chief Charles Hall said. Club capacity was 300, but Hall said fewer people than that were inside the building.

The '80s hard rock band Great White had just started playing Thursday night when giant pyrotechnic sparklers on stage began shooting up and ignited the ceiling above them and soundproofing near the stage. Some in the crowd said they thought it was part of the act, but the fire quickly spread through the low-ceilinged building, filling it with thick, black smoke.

More than 160 people were taken to area hospitals after Thursday's blaze. Many were taken to Rhode Island Hospital and 38 remained there Friday, 14 of them in critical condition. Doctors said they had severe burns and were suffering from smoke inhalation.

The blaze broke out at about 11 p.m. during the first song at the concert in West Warwick, about 15 miles southwest of Providence.