At least 232 people have been killed and 200 others injured in a nightclub fire caused by a pyrotechnics show in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria, a police official has said.
Police Major Cleberson Braida Bastianello said officials counted 232 bodies that had been brought for identification to a gymnasium in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria.
Bastianello said the that lowered the toll from 245 earlier believed killed at the Kiss nightclub.
Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira, who was leading rescue efforts at the scene for the military police, said the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled, and there were as many as 500 people inside the club when the fire broke out.
Gabriel Elizondo, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Brazil said the nightclub, which is near a college campus, was full of teenagers and people in their 20s.
“Images that we’ve seen indicate people [were] just trying to scramble to get out of the building,” Elizondo said by phone.
“Who’s to blame for the fire will have to be determined in an investigation, but clearly we are starting to see early on that people were not able to escape.”
‘Tragedy for all of us’
The fire led President Dilma Roussef to cancel a series of meetings she had scheduled at a summit of Latin American and European leaders in Chile’s capital of Santiago, and was headed to Santa Maria, according to the Brazilian foreign ministry.
“It is a tragedy for all of us. I am not going to continue in the meeting [in Chile] for very clear reasons,” she said.
Santa Maria is near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, some 300km west of the state capital of Porto Alegre.
Luiza Sousa, a civil police official in Santa Maria, told Reuters news agency 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.
Rio Grande do Sul state’s health secretary, Ciro Simoni, said respirators from all over the state were being sent to the scene.