Seventh-day Adventist young people in Brazil rallied this week to donate blood in the wake of one of the world’s deadliest nightclub fires in more than a decade.
At least 230 partygoers died and more than 100 were injured on January 27 when a band’s pyrotechnics display ignited ceiling insulation at a club in downtown Santa Maria, releasing flames and toxic smoke into the panicked crowd.
As victims flooded local hospitals, medical staff urgently appealed to the Adventist-run Vida por Vidas (“Life for Lives”) blood-donation organization in South America. The denomination is known for handling large-scale blood donation drives, especially in Brazil, where health officials estimate the project annually contributes 3.5 million bags of blood.
Blood donors gathered early Sunday at the Central Adventist Church in Santa Maria and immediately headed to the city’s Blood Donation Center, said Vida por Vidas coordinator Adriano Luz.
Meanwhile, Adventist medical staff volunteered at local hospitals, among them Dr. Jocemara Fernandes, who received an emergency call to aid victims early Sunday morning.
“The scene of horror and despair I witnessed was unprecedented in my experience,” Fernandes said. She has worked in a local emergency room for more than a decade.
Fernandes treated at least 15 victims between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Sunday. “Most people had problems related to smoke inhalation,” she said.
Another young victim suffered second degree burns and difficulty breathing, Fernandes said. Most victims were under the age of 30.
“What we can do now is pray for the injured and the bereaved families that God will help them,” she said.
Santa Maria Mayor Cezar Schirmer declared a 30-day mourning period, and local authorities continue to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Vida por Vidas was launched in 2006 and is overseen by young Adventists in South America.