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Fire Kills 19 at Mexico City Disco

October 20, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A fire broke out early Friday at a popular club the city repeatedly sought to shut down, killing 19 people trapped inside and injuring two dozen others, officials said.

A short circuit may have sparked the blaze, police said. But witnesses told firefighters that they heard several explosions before the fire went tearing through the disco at 5 a.m.

The disco, Lobohombo, had no emergency exits and was operating with a permit for a restaurant rather than a nightclub, authorities said. Its 4,700 square feel surpassed the maximum size permitted by law.

Patrons were just leaving the club, which normally closes by 4 a.m., when the fire sped through the building, reports said.

Nineteen bodies were recovered Friday. The blaze was extinguished before dawn.

The club, with its large, mirrored facade, was one of the city’s best-known nightclubs and was sometimes rented out by celebrities.

But authorities said it had a long history of trouble with the law, repeatedly clashing in court with the city.

Authorities shut the club down 11 times for code violations but the owners managed to renegotiate its reopening each time, said Dolores Padierna, a local representative for Cuauhtemoc borough, where the club is located.

Earlier this year, officials ordered the club closed because it lacked a permit for table dancing. The owner secured a federal court injunction allowing it to stay open, said Maria Inez Munoz, spokeswoman for the Cuauhtemoc borough.

The last time authorities tried to shut down the club, in May, ``security police came out with dogs and armed, and did not allow access to the place,″ said Irineo Varela, who lives near the disco.

An attorney for the club’s owner, Alejandro Iglesias Rebollo, disputed the allegations. City officials inspected and approved the club in June, attorney Victor Trejo Sanchez told the Radio Red network.