Paraguay mourns fire victims

Grief-stricken relatives claimed the bodies of their loved ones as sombre funeral rites and burials were held.

While the local media says 364 bodies have been recovered, confusion remains over the exact number of those killed.

Rescuers resuscitated a four-month old baby who was found on the ground of the supermarket, whose father died and mother was badly injured.

And the family of a missing 23-year-old woman had started a candlelight vigil believing her to be dead when they received a call saying she was at a local hospital.

“This is a moment of such great pain because of this tragedy but my whole family are now overjoyed,” said the woman’s brother Ruben Aguiar.

But there were other tragic events, with one neighbourhood hosting wakes and vigils for 25 families who had lost relatives, including many children.

Many of those being buried were burned beyond recognition and have still not been identified.

Each casket is to be coded for possible exhumation for identification purposes.

Survivors have told of being locked inside the shopping centre and having to break windows to flee the flames.

“Most of the people were killed by asphyxiation because they breathed in toxic fumes. If they had been allowed to get out they would not have died,” said fire chief Hugo Onieva.

Prosecutors said they will file second-degree homicide charges against Juan Pio Paiva, owner of the Ycya Bolanos supermarket, his son, Daniel Paiva, the store’s manager, Humberto Casaccia and four guards.

One of the guards, Ismael Alcaraz, confessed to authorities that guards were ordered to close the doors after the fire started so that nobody would rob the store or leave without paying.

Investigators said they believe Daniel Paiva gave the order.

“We are still retrieving bodies around the restaurants, the butchery and the warehouses. It was probably the employees,” said inspector Santiago Velazco.

Firefighters believe the fire was ignited by a spark hitting an industrial-sized propane gas tank in the food court. Witnesses said they later heard several explosions.

The fire started just before noon when the supermarket was at its busiest with between 500 and 700 customers. The complex was destroyed in less than half an hour.

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