The toll was expected to rise, police said. Bodies were still being removed from the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria, Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira, who was leading rescue efforts at the scene for the military police, told Reuters.
Ferreira told Reuters that the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled, and that there were possibly as many as 500 people inside the club when the fire broke out at about 2:30 a.m.
Television footage showed people sobbing outside the club, while shirtless firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit. “It was really fast. There was a lot of smoke, really dark smoke,” survivor Aline Santos Silva, 29, told Globonews TV. “We were only able to get out quickly because we were in a VIP area close to the door.”
President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile and was returning to Brazil following the blaze, her spokesperson said. Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, told Reuters 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.
Santa Maria is some 186 miles west of the state capital of Porto Alegre. “A sad Sunday!” tweeted Rio Grande do Sul Governor Tarso Genro. He said “all possible measures” were being taken in response and that he was on his way to the scene.
Re-printed from Bossip.com