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Paraguay accused of ignoring fire safety

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CLIENTS AND contractors in Paraguay fail to take fire safety engineering seriously, a local fi e engineer warned this week.

'In South America we are copying the architects of the fi st world without complying with the same safety standards, ' said International Fire Safety Consulting director Eduardo Alvarez.

Alvarez was speaking at a fi e engineering conference in Madrid, organised by the Association of Professional Fire Engineers (APICI).

Alvarez said National Fire Protection Association codes were ignored at the Ycuá Bolaños supermarket in Paraguay, where on 1 August 2004 a fi e broke out, killing 426 people and injuring 477.

The supermarket was built in 2001 and appeared very modern.

But in terms of fi re safety it performed very badly, Alvarez told delegates.

'Construction is done for the aesthetic, and anything that cannot be seen does not matter, ' he said.

The fi e started on a grill in the supermarket kitchen.

Three blocked fire exits hampered evacuation efforts.

The polyurethane secondary ceiling completely burned away.

There were no sprinklers and annual fi e service inspections, called for in NFPA codes, were not carried out.

Alvarez also criticised clients for failing to seeking specialist advice .

'People have got to comply with codes voluntarily, a culture change is needed, ' he said.

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