Brazil and Fifa play down World Cup safety concerns
While the fire that caused 231 deaths in a night club in southern Brazil on Sunday has created unease over local safety standards, Brazilian officials are playing down concerns over the major sports events the country is about to host.
In the aftermath of the fire in the southern city of Santa Maria, doubts have been raised over whether local authorities have maintained effective oversight of some basic safety issues.
In particular, the high number of deaths is being blamed on the stampede as the blaze started, as many of the young clubbers tried and failed to escape through the one available exit.
But officials say the tragedy should not raise worries over preparations for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
Organisers say Brazil is used to large crowds at events and that the facilities and stadiums that will be used during these high-profile gatherings will have strict safety standards.
In a video released this Monday by the government's World Cup Committee, Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha said South America's largest country was ready to host the tournament, pointing towards its experience in organising the annual carnival celebrations.
Mr Padilha says at least three of the cities that will host World Cup matches - Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife - attract up to 600,000 tourists during each carnival.
"So we already are very experienced on how to mount an emergency response," he said.
Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo told journalists: "Brazil is used to hosting major events with high standards of safety and organisation. One accident, no matter how horrible, will not change the country's global image."Security plan
Fifa has also dismissed links between the tragedy in Santa Maria and concerns about the World Cup.
Speaking in Brazil, Fifa Secretary General Jerome Valcke said the fire in the night club "has nothing to do with the security in stadiums during the Confederations Cup [in June 2013] and the World Cup".
Mr Valcke had travelled to South America's largest country to join a ceremony that would mark 500 days to the main football event. The ceremony was postponed because of the fire.
The 12 stadiums that will host the World Cup games are either being built or refurbished. Fifa and the Brazilian government say they will be well-equipped and comfortable.
Brazilian officials also told the BBC that the government will soon announce a security plan for the World Cup. They said the plan has been prepared over many months and has no relation to the fire.
However, they believe the tragedy will "naturally add extra care" to the planning process.
They say the strategy will address not only issues such as crowds but also preventive measures relating to crimes or even terrorist attacks, something which is largely outside Brazil's experience.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee has not made any comment on concerns about the security standards at the event.High stakes
The fire in Santa Maria broke out as students were holding a freshers' ball.
Witnesses spoke of scenes of panic after the fire started, and a stampede as people tried to escape.
Officials are investigating claims that many of those who died were unable to escape as only one emergency exit was available.
A large number of victims were trapped in the club's toilets, possibly after mistaking them for an exit.
One of the owners of the club is reported to have confirmed that they were in the process of renewing its licence to operate, and that its fire safety certificate had expired last year.
Meanwhile, there have been a few incidents in recent years which might raise concerns specifically over sporting events.
In 2007, seven people died and 30 were injured in a stadium in Salvador in Bahia after part of the building's structure collapsed. They fell from a height of 20m.
The stadium is now being rebuilt and will host some of the World Cup matches. In 2000, in a stadium in Rio de Janeiro, 150 fans were injured when a fence fell during a stampede.
Authorities say, however, that the World Cup and the Olympic Games are high profile events that are being organised in a "special way".
They say the government is investing huge sums on both events, hoping to improve the country's global image.
With so much at stake they are determined that it should all go to plan.