Relatives of victims cry in the southern city of Santa
Maria, Brazil, where a nightclub fire killed more than 200
people. REUTERS/Germano Roratto/Agencia RBS
At least 200 people have been killed in a nightclub fire
in southern Brazil after a band's pyrotechnics show set the
building ablaze, and fleeing patrons were unable to find the
emergency exits, local officials said.
Bodies were still being removed from the Kiss nightclub in
the southern city of Santa Maria, Major Gerson da Rosa
Ferreira, who was leading rescue efforts at the scene for the
military police, told Reuters.
Local officials said 180 people were confirmed dead, and
Ferreira said the death toll would rise above 200. Some media
are reporting a toll of about 230.
Ferreira said the victims died of asphyxiation or from being
trampled, and that there were possibly as many as 500 people
inside the club when the fire broke out at 2:30am (local
Television footage showed people sobbing outside the club,
while shirtless firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to
knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit.
"It was really fast. There was a lot of smoke, really dark
smoke," survivor Aline Santos Silva, 29, told Globonews TV.
"We were only able to get out quickly because we were in a
VIP area close to the door."
President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile and was
returning to Brazil following the blaze, her spokesperson
Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, told
Reuters the blaze started when a member of the band or its
production team ignited a flare, which then set fire to the
ceiling. The fire spread "in seconds," Sousa said.
The disaster recalls other incidents including a 2003 fire at
a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100,
and a Buenos Aires nightclub blaze in 2004 that killed nearly
200. In both incidents, a band or members of the audience
ignited fires that set the establishment ablaze.
Brazil's safety standards and emergency response capabilities
are under particular scrutiny as the country prepares to host
the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Summer
Rio Grande do Sul state Health Secretary Ciro Simoni said
emergency medical supplies from all over the state were being
sent to the scene.
Santa Maria is some 186 miles (300 km) 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