Brazil nightclub fire death toll reaches 245
The death toll from a fire early Sunday in a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil has climbed to 245, and hundreds of others were injured, local television reports said.
Reports quoted police sources as saying the death toll from the "Kiss" nightclub fire in Santa Maria could rise again as an investigation of the blaze continues.
There was a party for college students in the nightclub when the fire started, according to local reports. At around 2:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), a band member performing on stage reportedly lit fireworks that apparently caused the fire.
The fire developed very fast, with the room quickly filling with black smoke. There was only one exit for the nightclub, causing some trampling as partgoers tried to escape.
Mayor Gerson da Rosa Ferreira said the deaths were caused by asphyxiation or trampling and that 500 people were in the nightclub when the fire broke out.
Taynne, a college girl who escaped safely from the fire, told reporters that black smoke quickly filled the nightclub after the fire broke out, and partygoers fought their way through the crowd to the exit, trampling the ones falling down.
Taynne said that because she was not far from the door, it only two minutes for her to escape. However, many others inside the club were choked by the thick smoke, she said, adding that the status of three of her classmates was still unclear.
Television footage showed some shirtless men and firefighters usuing axes in an effort to try and break through the nightclub's walls from the outside. Black smoke continuously poured out of the holes in the walls.
Reports said the nightclub, which can hold 2,000 people, was popular among local youths and college students.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was attending a summit between the 27-member European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Chile, interrupted her visit to return home.
Rousseff telephoned Rio Grande do Sul Governor Tarso Genro on Sunday morning, offering federal aid to the tragedy at the nightclub.
Santa Maria is located at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay. It is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.