The grounds of the local school of the small French town of St. Laurent Du?
The grounds of the local school of the small French town of St. Laurent Du Pont near Grenoble, were crowded today (Tuesday) with the steady flow of mourners who poured into the gymnasium for the funeral service of the 144 young victims of the devastating dance hall fire of the early hours of Sunday morning (November 1). Many parents collapsed during the 15-minute service which was conducted by a multi-faith panel of preachers.
The gymnasium - the only building big enough to hold the 144 coffins in the small town - was the scene of pathetic and bewildered mourning as hundreds of parents and relatives still seemed unable to grasp the full facts behind the tragic event. Meanwhile, the official investigations, the blame and counter-blame, the recriminations and excuses, are giving rise to mounting public anger. Local security and fire officials are maintaining that the Club "Cinq-Sept" (Five-Seven) did not have the clearance and authority to open to the public. But the only surviving director of the dance hall, M. Gilbert Bas, and some of his employees have stated that the authorities did know it was in operation and that police had several times been called to settle fights in the hall.
Whatever the reasons, 142 young people-including two of the club's directors and five members of a new pop group-died in the blaze itself, 34 of them burnt totally beyond and form of identification. Two more died from burns in the next twenty-four hours. Whoever is to blame, there is no doubt that security precautions were limited, exits were blocked, much inflammable material was in use in the hall, there was no telephone. However, even if the firemen had been called immediately, survivors' reports would indicate that the fire was so quick that "it was all over in four minutes", and it would seem that little could have been done even if the firemen had been on the scene any sooner.