A major blaze at a nightclub in southern Brazilian town of Santa Maria has left at least 232 people dead, according to local police. The fire happened in the city center, with the area remaining isolated.
The local governor tweeted, “Sad Sunday. We are taking appropriate action and possible. I’ll Be in Santa Maria in the late morning.”
According to reports in the local media citing police, at least 131 other people were hospitalized, security forces indicated. The Kiss Nightclub in Andradas Street was 1,000 people over the capacity when the blaze broke out, official says.
The blaze reportedly began when a performing band started a fireworks display. Acoustic insulation caught fire, and thick smoke filled the club, causing many to die from inhaling the toxic fumes.
There was no emergency exit available and people rushed to the only way out of the building in panic, local officials said. Some people died of asphyxiation, others from being trampled, they added.
Firefighters had to use sledgehammers and axes to open up a breach exit in the exterior wall, according to local TV.
Emergency medical supplies are being sent from all over the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff had to break her Chile visit and fly back to Brazil following the accident, according to her spokesperson.
Just over eight years ago, a fire at a disco in Buenos Aires, Argentina, left 194 people dead and over 700 injured. Five to six thousand people were at the club, and the blaze was triggered by several youths who started throwing Bengal fires into the ceiling. All the fire exits turned out to be blocked.
And in 2009, a Russian club called ‘Lame Horse’ caught fire in the city of Perm, with 156 people were killed in the blaze which began when a pyrotechnics display ignited the nightclub’s wooden and straw ceiling.