Survivors: Singer at nightclub did not realize fire danger

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Explosion in Romania Nightclub Kills at Least 26

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Survivors of a deadly nightclub fire and stampede in Romania say the lead singer of the heavy metal band on stage first made a joke about the fire before it engulfed the basement club in downtown Bucharest.

Hundreds of young people had gone clubbing at the hip Colectiv nightclub on Friday to enjoy a free concert by the Goodbye to Gravity metal band. The evening ended in horror, as the inferno caused a panic that killed 27 people and injured 180 others.

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Around 146 people remained hospitalized Saturday, some in critical condition suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. Officials expect the death toll to rise in what is the worst disaster of its kind ever in Romania.

The interior ministry said 81 of the injured had been identified.

Premier Victor Ponta cut short a visit to Mexico to return to Bucharest and declared three days of mourning for the victims starting immediately.

About 20 clubs in Bucharest announced they were canceling Halloween parties Saturday out of respect for the victims of the fire. At least one club said it would remain closed until the period of mourning was over.

The General Prosecutor's office said that five of the dead had still to be identified. The interior ministry, which set up seven lines for families to call to find out about the tragedy, said Saturday it had received more than 1,000 calls.

An Italian woman, two Spanish citizens and a German man were among the injured, the Romanian Intelligence Agency said.

Photos from the scene and remembrance in Romania:

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Romanian nightclub fire
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Survivors: Singer at nightclub did not realize fire danger
A survivor of an explosion that occurred in a club in Bucharest, Romania, is led away from the blast scene wrapped in a thermal blanket early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. An explosion and ensuing flames on a stage at a Bucharest nightclub on Friday left more than 20 people dead and over 150 hospitalized with injuries, Romania's interior minister said. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A survivor of an explosion that occurred in a club in Bucharest, Romania, cries, wrapped in a thermal blanket outside the blast scene early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. An explosion and ensuing flames on a stage at a Bucharest nightclub on Friday left more than 20 people dead and over 150 hospitalized with injuries, Romania's interior minister said. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Forensic workers collect items outside the site of an explosion that occurred in a club in Bucharest, early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. An explosion and ensuing flames on a stage at a Bucharest nightclub on Friday left more than 20 people dead and over 100 hospitalized with injuries, Romania's interior minister said. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Emergency service and police forces collect evidence near a club in Bucharest October 31, 2015, after an explosion. More than 20 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion followed by a fire, which took place Friday evening at a club during a music concert , where at that time there were hundreds people. Romanian Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea announced that there are at least 26 dead. AFP PHOTO ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency service and police forces block the area near a club in Bucharest October 31, 2015, after an explosion. More than 20 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion followed by a fire, which took place Friday evening at a club during a music concert , where at that time there were hundreds people. Romanian Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea announced that there are at least 26 dead. AFP PHOTO ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency services gather near a club in Bucharest October 31, 2015, after an explosion. More than 20 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion followed by a fire, which took place Friday evening at a club during a music concert , where at that time there were hundreds people. Romanian Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea announced that there are at least 26 dead. AFP PHOTO ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
A child wears a Halloween hat sits in a vehicle, as the adults accompanying her light candles and lay flowers outside the compound that housed the nightclub where a fire occurred in the early morning hours in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Hundreds of young people had gone clubbing at the hip Colectiv nightclub Friday night to enjoy a free concert by the Goodbye to Gravity metal band but the evening ended in horror, as the inferno caused a panic that killed tens of people and injured many others.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Emergency service and police forces collect evidence near a club in Bucharest October 31, 2015, after an explosion. More than 20 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion followed by a fire, which took place Friday evening at a club during a music concert , where at that time there were hundreds people. Romanian Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea announced that there are at least 26 dead. AFP PHOTO ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Survivors of an explosion that occurred in a club in Bucharest, are led away from the blast scene wrapped in a thermal blanket early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. An explosion and ensuing flames on a stage at a Bucharest nightclub on Friday left more than 20 people dead and over 150 hospitalized with injuries, Romania's interior minister said. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Emergency service and police forces collect evidence near a club in Bucharest October 31, 2015, after an explosion. More than 20 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion followed by a fire, which took place Friday evening at a club during a music concert , where at that time there were hundreds people. Romanian Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea announced that there are at least 26 dead. AFP PHOTO ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
A victim of the fire at a club is transported to an emergency hospital in Bucharest on October 31, 2015. More than 20 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion followed by a fire, which took place Friday evening at a club during a music concert , where at that time there were hundreds people. Romanian Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea announced that there are at least 26 dead. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREEA TANASE (Photo credit should read ANDREEA TANASE/AFP/Getty Images)
CORRECTS TO REMOVE REFERENCE OF EXPLOSION - A person injured by a fire that occurred in a club in Bucharest, Romania, is loaded into an ambulance at the city's emergency hospital early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. A heavy metal band's pyrotechnical show sparked a deadly fire Friday at a Bucharest nightclub, killing more than 20 people and injuring scores of the club's mostly youthful patrons, officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo)
People wait in line to donate blood to help the victims of a fire in a club in Bucharest, Romania on October 31, 2015. Romania was plunged into mourning after 27 people were killed and nearly 200 injured when a fire ripped through an underground nightclub in Bucharest on October 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
People light candles to commemorate the victims outside the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on October 31, 2015, a day after a mortal fire. At least 27 people were killed and more than 160 injured after a fire ripped through a nightclub in Bucharest late on Friday, in one of the worst accidents to hit the Romanian capital. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
Women light candles outside a club where a fire broke out the night before in Bucharest, Romania, on October 31, 2015. Romania was plunged into mourning after 27 people were killed and nearly 200 injured when a fire ripped through an underground nightclub in Bucharest on October 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
People stand in front of a club where a fire broke out the night before in Bucharest, Romania, on October 31, 2015. Romania was plunged into mourning after 27 people were killed and nearly 200 injured when a fire ripped through an underground nightclub in Bucharest on October 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI (Photo credit should read ANDREI PUNGOVSCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
A young girl brings flowers at a memorial makeshift outside the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on October 31, 2015, a day after a fire broke up. At least 27 people were killed and more than 160 injured after a fire ripped through a nightclub in Bucharest late on Friday, in one of the worst accidents to hit the Romanian capital. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
People light candles at a memorial makeshift outside the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on October 31, 2015, a day after a fire broke up. At least 27 people were killed and more than 160 injured after a fire ripped through a nightclub in Bucharest late on Friday, in one of the worst accidents to hit the Romanian capital. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
Youth hold eachother as they commemorate a friend among the victims outside the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on October 31, 2015, a day after a mortal fire. At least 27 people were killed and more than 160 injured after a fire ripped through a nightclub in Bucharest late on Friday, in one of the worst accidents to hit the Romanian capital. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
A Romanian police officer guard the entrance of the nightclub Colectiv in Bucharest on October 31, 2015, a day after a fire broke up inside the club. At least 27 people were killed and more than 160 injured after a fire ripped through a nightclub in Bucharest late on Friday, in one of the worst accidents to hit the Romanian capital. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives and friends mourn for the victims of a fire and stampede at the 'Colectivu' night club in Bucharest on November 1, 2015. Thousands of people gathered in a silent walk to the place of the club to lay flowers and light candles. Romanian media slammed as 'irresponsible' both authorities and the owners of a nightclub where a fire and stampede left 29 dead and nearly 200 injured during the night to October 31, 2015, as hearings on the tragedy were set to begin. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
People cry while leaving the main forensic institute in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015 as families started receiving the bodies of their loved ones after they were identified. As the nation entered its second day of mourning, thousands paid their respects at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharestâs 4th district, scene of mayhem and tragedy Friday night when a fire engulfed the venue, causing a panic that killed tens of people and injured many others, raising serious questions about fire regulations and safety procedures in Romania. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A man cries while hugging a woman as relatives and friends wait for victims identification outside the main forensic institute in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, following a nightclub fire in the early morning hours. Hundreds of young people had gone clubbing at the hip Colectiv nightclub Friday night to enjoy a free concert by the Goodbye to Gravity metal band but the evening ended in horror, as the inferno caused a panic.(AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A woman cries as her partner comforts her outside the Colectiv nightclub, during a mourning march joined by thousands in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. As the nation entered its second day of mourning, thousands paid their respects at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharestâs 4th district, scene of mayhem and tragedy Friday night when a fire engulfed the venue, causing a panic that killed tens of people and injured many others, raising serious questions about fire regulations and safety procedures in Romania. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A girl cries while standing with others, lit by burning candles, outside the compound that housed a nightclub where a fire occurred in the early Saturday in Bucharest, Romania, to pay respects to the victims, 24 hours after the accident Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Flames spread quickly through the crowded basement club, trapping many and triggering a stampede, making it the deadliest nightclub blaze in Romanian history. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
People, lit by burning candles, stand outside the compound that housed a nightclub where a fire occurred in the early Saturday in Bucharest, Romania, to pay respects to the victims, marking 24 hours after the accident Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Flames spread quickly through the crowded basement club, trapping many and triggering a stampede, making it the deadliest nightclub blaze in Romanian history. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
People, lit by burning candles, stand outside the compound that housed a nightclub where a fire occurred in the early Saturday in Bucharest, Romania, to pay respects to the victims, 24 hours after the accident Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Flames spread quickly through the crowded basement club, trapping many and triggering a stampede, making it the deadliest nightclub blaze in Romanian history. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Candles are layed down in the memory of victims two days after a fire accident at the Colectivu club in Bucharest November 1, 2015. Thousands of people gathered in a silent walk to the place of the club to lay flowers and light candles. Romanian media slammed as 'irresponsible' both authorities and the owners of a nightclub where a fire and stampede left 29 dead and nearly 200 injured, as hearings on the tragedy were set to begin. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
Candles are layed down in the memory of victims two days after a fire accident at the Colectivu club in Bucharest November 1, 2015. Thousands of people gathered in a silent walk to the place of the club to lay flowers and light candles. Romanian media slammed as 'irresponsible' both authorities and the owners of a nightclub where a fire and stampede left 29 dead and nearly 200 injured, as hearings on the tragedy were set to begin. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
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Witnesses told Antena 3 TV that between 300 and 400 mostly young people had been at the club, housed in a former factory, when a pyrotechnical show went awry. They said there was only one exit.

Club-goers told Digi 24 television that a spark on stage ignited some polystyrene decor. Photos posted on social media appeared to show a flame emanating from a pillar covered in foam insulation as those in the audience applauded the band.

Shooting candles and indoor fireworks are common in bars and restaurants in Romania and fire regulations can be lax.

Delia Tugui, a Spanish teacher at the American International School of Bucharest who was at the concert with her husband and son, said club-goers were surprised by how fast the fire spread and panicked.

"The lead singer made a quick joke: 'This wasn't part of the program.' The next second, he realized it wasn't a joke and asked for a fire extinguisher," she wrote on her Facebook page. "In 30 seconds... the fire spread all over the ceiling. People rushed to the entrance but it was too narrow, and people panicked."

"Friends were looking for each other under the pile of people. Asking 'Is it you? Where are you? I can't see you. Is that your arm?' It was a nightmare."

She said she knew some would not escape.

"I realized that those on the other side of the bar would not get out alive."

"I was two meters (6.6-feet) from the door and I barely got out," she told The Associated Press. "People started pushing each other, stamping on each other, it was incredibly quick."

Once she got outside, there was blast and her hair caught fire, Tugui said.

"I tried to put it out with my hands and got burned. People behind me were burned from head to toe," she said. "Other people were hairless, their clothes were half-burned, and skin burned."

Goodbye to Gravity's bass guitarist Vlad Telea and another guitarist, Mihai Alexandru, were among the 27 dead, Mediafax news agency reported, citing the band's record label Universal Music Romania. Lead singer Alex Pascu and two other band members were hospitalized with serious injuries.

Florentina Dinca, 38, who lives opposite the nightclub, told The Associated Press there was chaos as emergency workers tried to aid the badly burned club-goers.

"They were very frightened, they screamed, ambulances didn't know what to do," she said. "Girls had their hair burned, they had burns on their faces. It was terror."

Bogdan Oprita, spokesman for the Floreasca Emergency Hospital where dozens were hospitalized, said it was the worst bloodshed since the 1989 anti-Communist revolution.

"It was like a war. Dozens of surgeons were called from home and asked to operate," he said.

General Prosecutor Tiberiu Nitu said prosecutors are probing what happened. Police spent all night in the club investigating the incident and questioning the club's owners.

President Klaus Iohannis visited injured people Saturday at the Floreasca hospital in Bucharest and tried to comfort survivors and relatives. He said most of the injured were unconscious and in serious condition. He later visited the nightclub and spent a few moments paying silent respect to the victims.

The nightclub is one of dozens of clubs and bars that have sprung up in the Romanian capital in recent years, a lively city of 3 million renowned for its nightlife and long hours.

He also promised an inquiry into the blaze to prevent future disasters.

"I visited burns patients from last night's tragedy," he said. "I spoke to a patient's mum. People are disgusted that such a thing could happen and I hope we manage to have results of the inquiry as soon as possible and to change norms so that things like this never happen again."

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