Back to top

In Santiago, Chile, during a religious festival, a disastrous fire kills several thousand churchgoers

Ruins of the Church of the Compania, Santiago, Chile, December 1863, artist's impression
12/08/1863
The Church of the Company of Jesus in the Chilean capital of Santiago, Chile was packed with more than three thousand citizens, mostly female, for services commemorating the the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  At around 7 p.m. a fire broke out around the altar and flames swept through the building.  Fatally, all doors in the Church opened inward and panic made escape virtually impossible.  Between two and three thousand people died in the fire, thought to be the single greatest ever human loss to fire in a single building.  (By John Osborne) 
Source Citation: 
"Terrific Tragedy in Chili; Two Thousand Five Hundred Persons Roasted to Death in a Church," New York Times, January 18, 1864, p.1.