SANTA MARIA, Brazil (CBSNewYork) — A fire at a nightclub in Brazil left 232 people dead overnight.
Earlier reports said 245 people were killed, but earlier estimates have been reduced, CBS News reported.
The fire broke out around 2 a.m. at the Boate Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, officials said. Local media reported the blaze erupted when a band was performing at the club.
Witnesses said a flare or firework lit by band members may have started the blaze.
Police Major Cleberson Braida told local news media that the bodies were brought for identification to a gymnasium in the city of Santa Maria, CBS News reported.
Hundreds of people were also said to be injured.
Television images showed smoke pouring out of the Boate Kiss club as shirtless, young male partygoers joined firefighters in wielding axes and sledgehammers, pounding at windows and walls to break through to those trapped inside, CBS News reported. Teenagers sprinted from the scene desperately trying to find help — others carried injured and burned friends away in their arms.
“There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic and it took a long time for people to get out, there were so many dead,” survivor Luana Santos Silva told the Globo TV network.
Rodrigo Moura, whom has been identified in published reports as a security guard at the club, said it was at its maximum capacity of between 1,000 and 2,000 and partygoers were pushing and shoving to escape, CBS News reported.
“Sad Sunday”, tweeted Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. He said all possible action was being taken and that he would be in the city later in the day.
Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.
It was not immediately learned whether any of the victims had any connection to New York City or the Tri-State Area.
The death toll would make it one of the deadliest nightclub fires more than a decade. The only fire with more fatalities since the turn of the millennium was on Dec. 25, 2000, when 309 people died at a fire in Luoyang, China.
The fire was reportedly sparked by a welding accident.
On Dec. 5, 2009, a fire broke out at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm, Russia, when an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling that had been festooned in branches. The death toll was 152.
And on Feb. 20, 2003, 100 people were killed when a fire broke out at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island. In a phenomenon similar to the incident in Brazil, pyrotechnics used by the band ignited flammable sound insulation foam around the stage.
The deadliest nightclub fire in American history happened at the Cocoanut Grove in Boston on Nov. 28, 1942, when flames spread over a canopy of artificial palm fronds over the tables. The fire left 492 people dead.
Within New York City, the deadliest nightclub fire was the result of an arson. On March 25, 1990, a fire broke out at Happy Land, an unlicensed social club at 1959 Southern Blvd. in the Bronx. The blaze, which left 87 people dead, was an arson committed by a man whose former girlfriend had worked at the club.
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