(BRAZIL, February 4, 2013) Most have heard about the tragic fire that broke out at the Kiss Nightclub, in the city of Santa Maria, Brazil, on 27 January 2013. The death of over 230 people has dominated the international media headlines for nearly a week now.
To make matters worse, the fire caused low-grade acoustic foam to burn, releasing toxic smoke and poisoning survivors with cyanide. The drug used to treat cyanide poison, commercially known as CyanoKit, was not available in Brazil resulting in more fatalities.
On 30 January 2013, the Brazilian Minister of Health requested the donation of 140 doses of CyanoKit to treat the affected individuals. The Minister of Health stated that, without the drug, an additional fatality rate of 50 percent could occur. The DoD Humanitarian Assistance team, including U.S. Southern Military Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, immediately collaborated in finding the medication and researching the various transportation options available, working with the Defense Logistics Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, the State Department, and various transportation sources, both government and non-government. American Airlines offered to transport the kits at no charge, so this became the chosen option.
Using Overseas Humanitarian Disaster & Civic Aid (OHDACA) funds, the kits successful arrived, via the commercial flight, on the morning of 2 February 2013. The medicine was immediately dispatched to the hospitals for the patients affected by toxic cyanide.
The Brazilian media coverage on this humanitarian mission was very well received. The medicine, successfully arriving in just 48 hours after the request, was a result of a total HA team effort.