SANTA MARIA, BRAZIL (MorichesDaily) — At least 232 people were killed in a night club fire in southern Brazil, said Col. Adilomar Silva, regional coordinator of civil defense.
Bodies were still being removed from the Kiss nightclub, Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira, who was leading rescue efforts at the scene for the military police, told Reuters.
Hundreds are believed to have been injured, though an exact count was not immediately available.
There was a pyrotechnics show going on inside the club when the fire started.
Authorities stopped short of blaming it for the blaze, saying the cause was still under investigation.
Reports say there was only one exit and panic spread as people tried to get out. Many victims reportedly died from inhaling toxic fumes.
The fire is now out and bodies are being removed from the scene.
“Fire services are looking for other victims. We can’t give an exact number of victims. People started panicking and ended up treading on each other,” fire chief Guido de Melo told local media.
A reporter at the scene told local radio that the nightclub had a capacity for up to 2,000 people and was believed to be full on a Saturday night.
Thick smoke engulfed the venue after acoustic insulation caught fire, officials say.
Fire crews reportedly knocked through a wall to help those trapped inside escape.
Hundreds of people have been taken to hospital.
Rio Grande do Sul state Health Secretary Ciro Simoni said respirators from all over the state were being sent to the scene.
Santa Maria is a major university city with a population of about 250,000 people.
The incident is similar to a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island where pyrotechnics used by the heavy metal band Great White ignited a blaze that killed more than 90 people.
Santa Maria is some 187 miles west of the state capital of Porto Alegre. “A sad Sunday!” tweeted Rio Grande do Sul Governor Tarso Genro. He said “all possible measures” were being taken in response and that he was on his way to the scene.