The deadliest nightclub fire in world history with 492 persons killed happened 61 years ago at the Cocoanut Grove in Boston, Massachusetts, according to a list compiled by the international nonprofit organization, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
With palm trees, coconuts, dancing and laughing crowds, the Cocoanut Grove was one of Boston’s most popular nightspots before and during World War II. It was the place to go to have a good time. A small fire which broke out in a fake palm tree in the basement on Nov. 28, 1942, however, made it the place of Boston’s worst nightmare.
The fire on the basement quickly spread across the ceiling decorations. It took only an incredible five minutes for the fire to spread to the public stairway, the first floor foyer, the main entrance and the main dining room, and make the Cocoanut Grove an inferno from one end to the other.
To make matters worse, all the exits normally open to the public by some malfunctioning were useless for a safe escape, trapping most of the people inside the club.
The Ozone Disco in Quezon City was also described a “firetrap” because it lacked exit routes, fire extinguishers and warning devices. At least 160 persons were killed and 93 others were injured during the fire that gutted it on March 18, 1996. The fire which lasted for more than an hour started at the disc jockey’s booth and immediately engulfed the whole place.
The NFPA, a world advocate to prevent fires with more than 70,000 members, lists the Ozone fire as the sixth deadliest fire in world history.
The 10 deadliest nightclub fires in world history, according to NFPA:
1. Cocoanut Grove nightclub, Boston, Massachusetts
Nov. 28, 1942
2. Disco/dance hall, Luoyang, China. (Fire began elsewhere in shopping plaza and spread to the disco.)
Dec. 25, 2000
3. Rhythm Club dance hall, Natchez, Mississipi
April 23, 1940
4. Cromagnon Republic club, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dec. 30, 2004
5. Beverly Hills Supper Club, Southgate, Kentucky
May 28, 1977
6. Ozone Disco Club, Quezon City, Philippines
March 18, 1996
7. Lame Horse Nightclub, Perm, Russia
Dec. 4, 2009
Deaths: 152 (best information available as of Jan. 7, 2010)
8.Club Cinq, St. Laurent du Pont, France
Nov. 20, 1971
9. The Station nightclub, W. Warwick, Rhode Island
Feb. 20, 2003
10. Happy Land Social Club, Bronx, New York
March 25, 1990
Source: NFPA files on major fire incidents, http://www.nfpa.org and Inquirer Archives