BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — A fire swept through a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday, killing at least 180 people and leaving at least 200 injured, police and firefighters said.
Sandro Meinerz, a spokesman for the police in the city of Santa Maria, told local media that the fire broke out at the Kiss club while a band was performing.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, officials said. The total number of victims is still unclear and there may be hundreds injured, Civil Police and regional government spokesman Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha.
Arigoni told the radio station a truck carrying 70 bodies had arrived at the Municipal Sports Center, which was being used as an improvised morgue.
Diario de Santa Maria reported that the fire started at around 2 a.m.
Rodrigo Moura, whom the paper identified 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.
Ezekiel Corte Real, 23, was quoted by the paper as saying that he helped people to escape. "I just got out because I'm very strong," he said.
"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.
The fire appeared to be among the deadliest in a nightclub since a 2004 fire killed 194 people at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A blaze at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm, Russia, broke out on Dec. 5, 2009, when an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches, killing 152
A nightclub fire in the U.S. state of Rhode Island in 2003 killed 100 people after pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling.
A welding accident reportedly set off a Dec. 25, 2000, fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.