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Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts to close after fire

Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts (cap. 2,100), also known as Bozar, has closed for at least a week after a fire broke out on the roof of the building yesterday afternoon (18 January).

Nearly 100 firefighters attended the scene after eyewitnesses reported large plumes of smoke coming from the roof of the multi-purpose venue at around 4:15 pm CET.

The blaze, which did not spread beyond the roof, was under control by around 9 pm local time. Two firefighters were injured during the process though no other casualties were reported as the building was closed at the time.

“Around midnight, most of the means deployed left the scene, but a fire engine remained on site all night to ensure a fire picket,” said the spokesman of the Brussels fire department, Walter Derieuw.

While the fire did not damage any major work in the Centre for Fine Arts, a complete review of the damage is yet to be undertaken. The cause of the fire remains unknown but investigations are expected to commence today.

 


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$33m settlement for Ghost Ship fire lawsuits

The city of Oakland has reached a $32.7 million settlement with the families of those killed by the tragic blaze at  unlicensed music venue and artists’ collective Ghost Ship in 2016.

The fire, which was the worst structural disaster in northern California since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, killed 36 people in total, most of whom were at Ghost Ship for an electronic music party.

The Oakland City Council has now authorised the settlements of lawsuits filed by the families of 32 victims.

“This was a horrific tragedy that deeply impacted every corner of our community,” reads a statement from the city attorney’s office. According to the statement, the city decided to settle because of the possible legal costs, and does not acknowledge any liability for the incident.

“This was a horrific tragedy that deeply impacted every corner of our community”

Prosecutors contend that Derick Almena, the master tenant on the warehouse lease, was criminally negligent when he converted and sublet the space as a residence for artists and an event venue.

Almena was charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, with a retrial – following an initial mistrial – scheduled for October. A co-defendant, Max Harris, was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges last year, while the building’s owner, Chor Ng, has not been charged with a crime.

The blaze, which was believed to have been caused by an electrical fire, echoed another tragic incident at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, the same year, which claimed the lives of 64 people.

Last year, prison sentences were handed out to 13 people in conjunction with the Colectiv fire, including the venue owners, pyrotechnic specialists and city officials.

Photo: Jim Heaphy/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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Koko London roof damaged by fire

London’s Koko has been damaged in a blaze that broke out on its roof shortly before 9pm last night (6 January).

The historic 1,410-cap. venue, in Camden, north London, has been closed for refurbishment since September 2018 when it shut its doors in order to fix a “structural issue within the building”. Koko, formerly the Camden Theatre, the Music Machine and, most recently, Camden Palace, was built in 1900 and grade II listed.

Photos posted on social media appeared to show around a third of the roof on fire before the London Fire Brigade (LFB) extinguished the blaze.

LFB station commander Jon Lewis, who was at the scene, says the fire was under control by 2.37am this morning.

“Firefighters’ quick action and hard work in the early stages meant the fire was contained to the roof and saved the rest of the building,” says Lewis. “Fire crews will remain at the scene throughout the morning.”

“The amount of support we have received from the public has been amazing”

Olly Bengough, owner of Koko, comments: “We are deeply saddened by the fire that took place at KOKO last tonight and pleased to announce there have been no casualties.

“We want to thank the London Fire Brigade for its quick response and how well it handled the situation.

“The amount of support we have received from the public has been amazing, and we’ll be doing our best to get the redevelopment of this iconic building back on track. We will provide further comments as circumstances become clearer.”

 


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Thirteen convicted over Bucharest nightclub fire

A court in the Romanian capital of Bucharest has today (Monday 16 December) handed prison sentences to 13 people in conjunction with a deadly fire that broke out in the 700-capacity Colectiv nightclub in 2015.

The blaze, which started after fireworks ignited inflammable acoustic foam at a show by metalcore band Goodbye to Gravity on 30 October 2015, killed 64 people, including four of the five band members.

The tragic fire sparked sweeping reforms to both venue regulation and the political system in Romania. However, many criticised a lack of punishment for those who played a role in the tragedy.

Now, over four years since the incident, the first convictions have been made, with 13 individuals deemed responsible for the fire receiving a combined 115 years and six months in prison.

In addition to the prison time, the Bucharest court ordered authorities found guilty of negligence to pay €50 million to the survivors of the fire and the families of those who died. Individual amounts range from €50,000 to €900,000.

Colectiv’s owners Anastasescu George Alin, Mincu Costin and Gancea Paul-Cătălin are each facing prison sentences of eleven years and eight months.

Now, over four years since the incident, the first convictions have been made

Niţă Daniela Ioana, the owner of the company that supplied the fireworks, received a sentence of twelve years and eight months in prison, whereas fellow owner Niţă Cristian Mihai was sentenced to three years and six months.

Zaharia Viorel and Moise Marian, pyrotechnic experts working on the show, received sentences of nine years and eight months and ten years in prison respectively.

The former mayor of Bucharest’s sector 4 municipality was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for issuing operating permits to Colectiv, with other local politicians receiving sentences of between three and eight years.

Two firemen were each handed sentences of nine years and two months.

All convictions can be challenged in a higher court.

A documentary entitled Colectiv, which follows the aftermath of the fire and ensuing anti-corruption investigations, premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year.

Photo: Eugen Simion/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0

 


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Fire forces evacuation of Croatian hip-hop fest

Attendees of Fresh Island festival in Croatia were today (16 July) evacuated following the breakout of a fire close to the festival site.

Organisers of the 7,000-capacity hip hop festival transported fans offsite after reports emerged last night (15 July) of a forest fire near to the festival site on Zrce beach, on the Croatian island of Pag.

Emergency services were still working to contain the fire this morning.

Following the evacuation, the Fresh Island team said they were unsure how the fire would affect today’s beach performances. Headliner Tyga was due to play at Papaya nightclub (4,000-cap.), one of the evacuated venues. Other artists scheduled to perform include Tory Lanez, Stefflon Don and Hardy Caprio.

 

“We would like to say a big thank you to all Fresh Islanders who were at the festival for being so patient and supportive of each other and for cooperating with security and emergency services during the fire to stay safe,” read a festival Twitter post.

Organisers have confirmed that no casualties have occurred and “everyone is safe”. Updates will be published through the festival’s social media pages.

Fresh Island festival is scheduled to take place from until Thursday 17 July. Past acts to play the festival include  Wiz Khalifa, Migos, ASAP Rocky, Snoop Dogg, Stormzy and Giggs.

Update: festival organisers announce that, following the clearance of the fire, Fresh Island is “to continue as planned with no further disruptions.”

 


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Entertainment business pledges Notre-Dame rebuilding

Leading French entertainment and leisure business leaders have answered president Emmanuel Macron’s call to pledge resources to rebuild Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral, after last night’s devastating fire.

Billionaires François-Henri Pinault, president of investment company Groupe Artémis, and Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH, have respectively promised donations of €100 million and €200m, kicking off a wave of corporate giving in response to Macron’s launch of a national subscription to rebuild Notre-Dame.

In addition to its controlling interest in luxury-goods group Kering (which owns Gucci, Yves St Laurent and the Stella McCartney fashion house), Pinault’s Artémis group is a major player in the French sports and entertainment business, owning the Stade Rennais football club, cruise ship operator Ponant, Paris creperie Breizh Café and the Red River West tech investment fund. It also formerly held a 25% stake in Fnac Darty and owned and operated the Marigny Theatre (1,024-cap.) in Paris.

LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy), meanwhile, is also a major investor in luxury goods, with subsidiaries including Dior, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Givenchi and Hublot. Its entertainment holdings include hotel chain Cheval Blanc, radio station Radio Classique and private-equity firm L Catterton Asia, whose investments include K-pop powerhouse YG Entertainment (home to Coachella 2019 performers Blackpink).

“The partial destruction of Notre Dame is an unqualified tragedy”

“The Arnault family and the LVMH group, in solidarity with this national tragedy, are committed to assist with the reconstruction of this extraordinary cathedral, symbol of France, its heritage and its unity,” reads a statement from LVMH, which adds that “all its teams – including creative, architectural and financial specialists” are at the disposal of the state “to help with the long work of reconstruction and fundraising”.

Other donors include IT services firm Capgemini, which has promised €1m, property developer Groupe Duval, which has pledged an unspecified amount, and construction company Vinci, majority owner of the 80,000-cap. Stade de France, which has also given an undisclosed sum.

In a statement, Vinci suggested the French construction industry should “join forces to rebuild Notre-Dame in an industry wide skills sponsorship drive, possibly led by the Fondation du Patrimoine (French Heritage Foundation), so as to begin work and restore Paris’s cathedral as rapidly as possible.

“Vinci is naturally intent on contributing to the national fundraiser and asking its employees to do likewise, assisting Monuments Historiques architects when they assess the requirements, and taking part in the reconstruction if authorities deem its contribution useful.”

“The partial destruction of Notre-Dame is an unqualified tragedy,” the company adds. “The 13th-century wooden beams holding up the roof will never be replaced. But the part of Notre-Dame that has survived the fire must be safeguarded. Then, as the French president has announced, the cathedral must rise again.”

“We built this cathedral more than 800 years ago … we will rebuild it together”

No cause has yet been established for the fire that started just before 7pm local time yesterday (15 April) and ripped through Notre-Dame for more than 12 hours. According to Le Monde, the 13th-century Gothic cathedral’s spire and roof collapsed, and considerable damage was caused to the interior, upper walls and windows, as well as numerous works of art and its world-famous pipe organs.

According to the Independent, Notre-Dame is by far by the most-visited tourist attraction in France (itself the most popular tourist destination on Earth), and the disaster is expected to have a significant impact on visitor numbers in Paris.

Announcing the fundraising effort to restore the church to its former glory, Macron – standing in front of the still-burning building yesterday – told reporters: “What happened tonight in Paris, in this cathedral, is a terrible event. […] “Notre-Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations – the epicentre of our lives.

“Notre-Dame is burning, and I know the sadness and this tremor felt by so many fellow French people. But tonight, I’d like to speak of hope too.

“Let’s be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago, we’ve built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together.”

 


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The show will go on for Echo Arena after fire

Echo Arena has confirmed its events programme will proceed as planned following the fire in its car park on new year’s eve.

The blaze broke out in the Liverpool Waterfront car park, adjacent to the arena, on 31 December during the final performance of the Liverpool International Horse Show. A total of 1,305 vehicles were in the multi-storey car park, which remains closed until further notice, when the fire broke out.

“We can confirm that our future events will be able to proceed as planned following the serious fire which was contained in the Liverpool Waterfront car park on new year’s eve,” says Bob Prattey, chief executive of arena operator ACC Liverpool Group. “We will continue to communicate with all our clients who are organising forthcoming conferences, exhibitions and entertainment events, as well as customers and delegates.

 

“We are sorry to … those people whose vehicles were in the car park and who have been affected by this terrible situation”

Fast and Furious Live preview performances will take place as planned at the 11,00-cap. arena next Thursday and Friday (11 and 12 January), followed by Celebrating Sgt Pepper: Live on 13 January.

“We are sorry to customers who were due to attend the evening performance of the Liverpool International Horse Show, which was cancelled as a result of the fire, as well as those people whose vehicles were in the car park and who have been affected by this terrible situation,” adds Prattey.

“We are extremely thankful to the emergency services for their efforts. We would also like to thank the people who kindly provided transport for customers to enable them to travel home, as well as Liverpool City Council for establishing a relief centre for those needing shelter.”

ACC Liverpool Group posted a 50% increase in turnover, to £25.8 million, in 2016–17.

 


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Echo Arena thanks emergency services after car park fire

Liverpool’s Echo Arena has offered its thanks to the city’s emergency services, volunteers and the British Red Cross for their assistance after a fire at its car park destroyed an estimated 1,400 vehicles.

The fire tore through the multi-storey King’s Dock car park on new year’s eve, when the 11,000-capacity arena was hosting the fourth day of the Liverpool International Horse Show. An accidental fire in one car which spread to other vehicles is believed to have been the cause, according to police.

The show was cancelled and all horses evacuated, with a relief centre set up nearby by Liverpool city council for those unable to get home. Despite the damage, an arena spokesperson confirmed all people and horses are safe and that “there were no injuries during this terrible incident”.

“We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding while investigations continue”

Owners of the destroyed vehicles should contact their insurance companies, Merseyside police said.

“We are sorry to customers who were due to attend the evening performance of the Liverpool International Horse Show, which was cancelled as a result of the fire, as well as those people whose vehicles were in the car park and who have been affected by this situation,” the venue says in a statement. “We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding while investigations continue.

“We are extremely thankful to the emergency services for their efforts. We would also like to thank the people who kindly provided transport for customers to enable them to travel home, as well as Liverpool city council for establishing a relief centre for those needing shelter.

 


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Criminal charges brought against Ghost Ship pair

Two people have been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deadly blaze at the Ghost Ship in Oakland, California, last December.

Thirty-six people lost their lives on 2 December after the converted warehouse, home to a resident artists’ collective, caught fire. The building was described by fire officials as “maze-like and cluttered with objects, including wooden pallets”, and the blaze spawned a crackdown on similarly unlicensed performance venues in California.

Nancy O’Malley, the district attorney of Almeda County in California, suggested shortly after the disaster that those responsible could be charged with murder. Announcing the arrests yesterday of Derick Ion Almena, the Ghost Ship’s manager and promoter, and Max Harris, its ‘creative director’, she said the two men “knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape, filled it with human beings and are now facing the consequences of their deadly actions.

“My office launched this criminal investigation within hours of the fire, and we have worked steadily for the past six months to ensure that those responsible for these deaths are brought to justice.”

“Their reckless actions were the proximate cause of the death of the 36 individuals trapped inside the warehouse when the fire started”

Almena and Harris are charged with involuntary manslaughter, which differs from murder in that it does not require intent to kill another person. (Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for prescribing the late singer the potentially lethal anaesthetic propofol.)

Among the defendants’ failings, O’Malley’s office alleges, were allowing people to live in the warehousing and “deceiv[ing] the police, fire department and owners about that fact”, allow unlicensed concerts in the building and storing “large quantities of highly [in]flammable materials that created a deadly and dangerous space”.

“Their reckless actions,” says the complaint, “were the proximate cause of the death of the 36 individuals trapped inside the warehouse when the fire started.”

Almena and Harris were taken into custody “without incident” in Lake County and Los Angeles County, respectively, yesterday morning.

 


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Blaze destroys ‘unlicensed’ Bucharest club Bamboo

Bamboo, the Bucharest nightclub which burnt down early on Saturday morning, injuring more than 40 people, did not have an operating licence, a local government spokesman has revealed.

According to eyewitness reports, the blaze – which has echoes of the deadly fire at the Colectiv club, which lacked the proper fire permits, in October 2015 – was sparked by clubgoers smoking inside the venue. In a statement, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said the city had been “very close to another big tragedy. Rules and laws have apparently been broken again.”

A number of Bucharest venues lacking fire exits were shuttered in the aftermath of the Colectiv disaster, which left 64 dead, and several more, including Expirat, La Bonne Bouche and Biutiful, were forced to close by a new law forbidding public gatherings in buildings considered to be unsafe in the event of an earthquake. Smoking was also banned indoors.

Speaking to Mediafax, a spokesman for Sector 2 – one of six administrative units (sectoare) of the city of Bucharest – said Bamboo had recently been fined for operating without a licence. “The club had a building permit for an expansion, which had been issued in 2012, but the work hadn’t been finalised,” he explained. “The club didn’t have an operating licence and was fined last year. This year, they were going to be fined again.”

The 2,000-capacity club, one of Romania’s most famous, opened in 2002 and was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 2005.

“The club didn’t have an operating licence and was fined last year. This year, they were going to be fined again”

The blaze comes after a series of early victories for fledgling Romanian promoters’ association Aroc. Founded in September 2016 – partly in response to the Colectiv fire – its members include ARTmania Festival, Emagic, Electric Castle Festival, Summer Well Festival, Sunwaves Festival, Twin Arts, Metalhead, Amphitrion, Wise Factor, Plai Festival and Mozaic Jazz Festival.

“Romanian promoters have never been actively involved in the process of regulating or controlling it [the industry], Aroc chairwoman Codruţa Vulcu, of ARTMania, says. “What became clear after the Colectiv fire, where we all lost friends and colleagues, is that we need to be better organised so that safety is improved everywhere and the professionals who work so hard in this country to put on concerts and festivals are not associated with those elements who cut corners and ignore regulations just to make a quick profit.”

Aroc has already helped block legislation that would have seen 5% of gross ticketing income diverted to a private association – run by the parties who introduced the legislation. Noting the private sector’s outrage, Vulcu says: “How can this even be a discussion in parliament? To tax the people who are investing in the cultural sector and centralise funds, with this private association having the legal right to use the money as it pleases?”

Vulcu vows Aroc’s members are determined to stand their ground and keep pushing for a “less corrupt sector, equitable legislation and a safer industry.”

 


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