At least 200 people, mostly teenagers, were killed in a nightclub fire Sunday at the Santa Maria town in southern Brazil, local authorities said.
It is believed the fire at the Kiss nightclub broke out at 2 a.m. after a pyrotechnic show put up by a local band. Reportedly, the acoustic insulation caught fire and smoke started billowing out of it, soon turning into a blaze.
The blaze then quickly spread, producing thick black smoke in its aftermath. The toxic fumes led to a stampede with hundreds of people scrambling to get out of the venue, local media reports.
Since there was only one emergency exit at the venue, many revelers got trapped. Initial reports said 90 people died due to asphyxiation. Meanwhile, the number of victims reached at least 200 and is still rising.
After the firefighters were called in, they rushed to drill a hole in the wall to help people escape. Those who managed to get out, confirmed many have died due to inhalation of toxic fumes.
Speaking to the local media, fire chief Guido de Melo said: “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.”
Meanwhile, nearly 200 others have been rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment.
Estado de S.Paulo’s website reported there were around 2,000 people at the Kiss nightclub when the fire started. The authorities were still counting the dead as the shocking news trickled in.
The death toll in the devastating nightclub fire in Santa Maria has now risen to at-least 233. According to Glauber Fernandes, a reporter with a CNN affiliate, the scenario at the club was a “complicated” one.
There were lot of smoke around, lots of shoes and cell phones scattered around scene, as the revelers must have been desperately scrambling around, trying to get out of the place that had caught fire. "While we were there, we saw the cell phones were ringing. It was parents, friends, trying to know about what was happening and nobody was answering," Fernandes reported.
With regard to the cause of the deadly fire at the Kiss nightclub, the fire may have been caused by the local band's pyrotechnics display at the club. Andrew Downie, a correspondent for Time magazine in Brazil, told CBC News that apparently sparks from the pyrotechnics show set ablaze the acoustic tiles lining the ceiling, which then quickly spread and caused thick smoke to fill the venue.
BBC reports that authorities have released the names of 230 of the victims, with three bodies yet to be identified. Brazilian broadcaster Globo said most of the victims were aged between 16 and 20. Meanwhile more than 100 people were being treated in hospital, mostly for smoke inhalation.
BBC quoting one firefighter said that he had never seen such a tragedy in his life, with the victims "so young". President Dilma Rousseff, speaking from Chile in a condolence message said: "I would also like to say to the Brazilian people and to the people of Santa Maria that we stand together at this time, and that even though there's a lot of sadness, we will pull through."
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