This southern Brazilian city, where 231 people died last weekend in a discotheque fire, struggled to recover Tuesday despite having 118 injured in hospitals, 75 of them in critical condition.
The general feeling in Santa Maria was almost back to normal, except for black crepe still hanging from a few balconies, while stores were open again after many remained closed Monday in mourning for Brazil’s worst disaster in more than 50 years.
Gone from the empty cemeteries were the hundreds of cars parked at their gates Monday and the thousands of people who attended the burials of close to 100 victims.
The tragedy could only be felt fully at the doors of the Kiss discotheque, where dozens of curiosity-seekers gathered, many carrying flowers and photos in commemoration of the victims, who were mostly university students.
“All of the Brazil feels the sorrow here, the whole world feels it,” the Bolivian nurse Isabel Mejia, who has lived 32 years in Santa Maria, told Efe at the entrance to the discotheque.
Mejia said her son had wanted to go to the party but she didn’t let him, saying it would cost too much money as one excuse, and mentioning his back problems as another.
“Mothers have an instinct and I was right,” said Mejia, whose son thanked her deeply for having stopped him from going out that fateful night.
The gymnasium where the dead were taken, and where a vigil was held by most of the families, was practically empty on Tuesday.
Remaining as a sad reminder was an altar around a table with photos, letters, flowers and white balloons that were used Monday night in a demonstration of mourning that brought some 30,000 people together.
Hospitals on Tuesday were the gathering place for journalists who had traveled from around the world and for families of the injured.