At least 232 killed in Brazil nightclub blaze 'after musician set fireworks off on stage'

Estimates in local media claim that up to five hundred people were in the club

Rio de Janeiro

Witnesses recounted a scene of horror that was “like something out of a movie” after a fire at a nightclub in Brazil left at least 232 people dead.

The tragedy happened in the early hours of this morning during a student night at the Kiss nightclub in the town of Santa Maria, in Brazil’s southern Rio Grande do Sul state.

The blaze was started by a flare thrown from the stage and quickly swept through the club, witnesses said.

Survivors told of chaos as hundreds of partygoers scrambled for the exit as thick black smoke filled the club. Most of the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled in the panic, police said.

“Those who were far from the doors had simply no chance, said clubber Matheus Bortolotto, who went back into the club to find survivors.  “A girl died in my arms, I felt her heart stop beating. It was like something out of a movie. The ambulances simply could not cope with all the wounded.”

The fire started soon after 2.30am when between 400 and 500 people were in the club listening to one of the night’s two bands open their set.

A flare thrown from the stage appears to have ignited soundproofing foam on the ceiling. Previous fires in nightclubs – including one that killed 194 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2004 – also started this way.

Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, said the blaze then spread “in seconds”.

“We looked up at the ceiling in front of the stage and saw it had caught fire,” clubber Luana Santos Silva, 23, told Brazil’s Globo TV. My sister grabbed me and dragged me out of the club.”

“Everyone was pushing and shoving...the fire started out small, but in a matter of seconds it exploded,” said Taynne Vendruscolo, another survivor.

Some witnesses claim there was only one exit – and that security guards initially blocked their escape.

Murilo de Toledo Tiecher, a 26-year-old medical student, said: “People were screaming ‘there’s a fire’ but the security guards didn’t budge and tried to keep the door shut. Five or six people knocked over one security guard and knocked down the door. It was the only exit.” Another 117 victims were last night being treated in hospital. Many survivors appear to have been in the VIP area close to the exit. Those nearer the stage are said to have had little chance of escape.

Photographer Fernanda Gomes Freire Bona, 23, who was in the VIP area on an assignment, said the fact she was able to spot the fire early saved her life. “As I was near the door, thank God, I ran and in five minutes I was outside,” she said.

Today, bodies were being removed from the club hours after the fire was extinguished. According to Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, the first truck carried 67 bodies and the second 70. Police cordoned off the site to prevent anguished relatives from streaming in.

The city declared 30 days of mourning. The Vice-Mayor, Jose Haidar Farret, said: “This university town has never experienced anything like this. Just yesterday we were here to watch the selection of our carnival queen and today, in the same sports centre, we are here collecting bodies.”

Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, cut short a visit to Chile, where she was taking part in a regional summit, to visit the scene of the tragedy. “It’s a tragedy for all of us, and I cannot continue here at the summit, because my priority is the Brazilian people,” she said.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “As far as we are aware, there are no British nationals involved.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her in Latakia
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report