Powered by Max Banner Ads
At least 245 people have died in a fire that swept through a nightclub in a university city in southern Brazil, police and officials say, quoted by BBC. Local media say the fire began when a band let off fireworks at the Kiss club in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul.Reports say panic spread as people tried to get out. Many victims reportedly died from inhaling toxic fumes or from being crushed.The fire is now out and bodies are being removed from the scene.President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile and was returning to Brazil following the blaze, her spokesperson said.In a tweet, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Tarso Genro, said it was a “sad Sunday” and that all possible action was being taken in response to the fire. He would be in the city later on Sunday, he added.A firefighter told BBC News he had never seen such a tragedy in his life, with the victims “so young”.The priority for the authorities is now to identify the dead with many distressed relatives arriving at the scene, but in the hours ahead the focus will turn to the cause of this accident and safety procedures at the club, the BBC’s Gary Duffy reports from Sao Paulo.The fire broke out some time after 02:00 (04:00 GMT) when between 300 and 500 people are believed to have been in the club, where a band was playing.Thick smoke engulfed the venue after acoustic insulation caught fire, officials say. “We looked up at the ceiling in front of the stage and it was catching fire,” eyewitness Luana Santos Silva, 23, told Brazil’s Globo TV.“My sister grabbed me and dragged me out on the ground.” The exit, she said, was a “small door for lots of people to come out by”.The young woman’s sister, Aline Santos Silva, 29, added: “We managed to see it in time and to get out quickly, before the smoke began to spread.“The smoke spread really quickly, it didn’t give enough time for people to get out. I think people started to feel unwell, and then they began to come out covered in black smoke stains.”The witness commended the emergency services: “Help arrived really quickly, ambulances, police.” Fire crews tried knocking through an exterior wall to help those trapped inside to escape.Some 15 bodies were found in the club’s toilets where people had apparently sought refuge, local reports said.Speaking to BBC Brasil, Sergeant Arthur Rigue, from the local fire department, said: “I never witnessed a tragedy like this in my whole career.“These people are so young… There were many bodies piled up in various parts of the place. Some were in the toilet. They died of asphyxiation.”Fire chief Guido de Melo told local media. “People started panicking and ended up treading on each other.”Hundreds of people have been taken to hospital. A temporary morgue has been set up in a local gym as the city’s main morgue is unable to cope.Santa Maria is a major university city with a population of about 250,000 people.