Five detained as fire at Istanbul nightclub closed for renovations kills 29 people

Five people have been detained for questioning following a deadly daytime fire at a venue in the heart of Istanbul that left 29 people dead and at least one person severely injured.

The fire broke out at The Masquerade Club at around 12.47 lunchtime local time, according to Istanbul governor Davut Gül. The club takes up the bottom two floors of a 16-storey primarily residential building in the city’s Gayrettepe district.

Like many similar venues, The Masquerade Club was closed during the Islamic holy month of Ramazan (Ramadan) and was using the downtime for renovations to the property.

Mr Gül said the victims of the fire were thought to have been involved in building work at the property. It was not immediately clear whether they had died from smoke inhalation or from burns from the fire.

Firefighters and ambulances had rushed to the scene to tackle the blaze where they found the entrance to the club consumed by flames and thick smoke billowing out. They battled to bring the fire under control well into the afternoon and managed to rescue several victims, but many sadly later succumbed to their injuries in hospital, pushing the death toll to 29 by the end of Tuesday.

Among those to attend the scene was the newly re-elected Mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu. He told the press that it appears the club owners had not applied for the correct construction permit.

“There is no application [to the local municipality] for a renovation or a construction regarding the place and as it was two floors below ground level, it [the building work at the club] wasn’t visible,” the Mayor said. He later offered his condolences to the victims and their families on social media.

Turkiye’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been kept aware of developments from the tragedy by the Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya.

“An investigation has been opened into the fire that occurred in Gayrettepe in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul,” Minister Yerlikaya posted on X (formerly Twitter).

The Masquerade Club is a popular nightspot in Gayrettepe, which has been running since 1987. Boasting several stages, it regularly hosted live music and DJs. Its last licence had been renewed in 2018, said Governor Gül.

One of the survivors told a BBC Türkçe reporter that he had previously been employed as a barman at the club and he and his colleagues had been told to help with the renovations during the month it was closed for Ramazan. The man, who did not was to be named, said he had lost several close friends in the fire.

“Bartenders, waiters, jack-of-all-trades; we went there during this renovation process to do odd jobs such as moving rubble, carrying goods, and helping those workers who were coming and going.”

The worker alleged that no precautions had been taken to protect those present, many of whom had no experience of construction work:

“Busboy, waiter etc. These are the people who do it. Why do you bring these children to that venue for no reason? These people have no construction knowledge. We would work for a few hours and then stop. Nobody has a helmet or mask. We were dusting, we were lifting metal, we were climbing high. It was dangerous even if there was no fire. There were no precautions.”

Warrants were initially issued for five people in connection with the fire, including the nightclub manager and the site manager responsible for the renovations, Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç said on social media. Investigations into the fire continue.