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.”

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
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

PE Teacher, Full Time Role, Gillingham School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We are urgently seeking an exper...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Admin - £35,000 - 5 month FTC

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 5 month Fixed Term Contract - Telecommunicati...

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London