No fewer than 200 people were killed in a nightclub fire in southern Brazil on Sunday after a band’s pyrotechnics show set the establishment ablaze, local officials said.
Bodies were still being removed from the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria, 187 miles (300 km) west of the state capital of Porto Alegre, Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira, who was leading rescue efforts at the scene for the military police, told reporters.
Ferreira said 159 bodies had been removed from the club, and the death toll was likely to rise above 200. He said the victims died of asphyxiation (lack of Oxygen) or from being trampled. The Kiss nightclub is popular with young people in Santa Maria, drawing between 2,000 and 3,000 people a night on the weekends. This view seemed to be confirmed by Santa Maria fire chief Guido de Melo who said: “There was panic after the fire started and many revelers got trampled.”
Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, said 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.