Some 230 people enjoying a late night of revelry at a nightclub in Brazil were killed after a fire spread across the venue’s ceiling. The fire began in the early morning hours at Kiss nightclub in the university town of Santa Maria, Brazil.
The band Gurizada Fandangueira had taken the stage at 2:15am and played five songs when they noticed the ceiling was on fire. Five band members, all but the group’s accordion player Danilo Jacques, 28, made it out alive.
“The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward,” survivor Michele Pereira told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. “At that point, the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak, but in a matter of seconds it spread.” It is still unclear whether the band or the club or a freak accident is to blame for starting the fire.
233 bodies had been taken for identification to a nearby gymnasium. Some 117 people were taken to nearby hospitals and treated for smoke inhilation, the cause of most of the deaths.
“Large amounts of toxic smoke quickly filled the room, and I would say that at least 90 percent of the victims died of asphyxiation,” Dr. Paulo Afonso Beltrame, a medical professor on the scene from the nearby university, told the Associated Press. The club was over maximum capacity with about 2,000 people inside. Classes at the nearby university and schools were to start next week, so several people were celebrating the end of summer. Amateur video shows fire crews hosing down the venue with the help shirtless witnesses.
People had trouble getting out of the venue because “there was a barrier of bodies blocking the entrance,” said the city’s fire department chief. Reports say that security guards initially didn’t let people out because they thought the fire was a brawl, and people were just trying to skip out on paying their bills. Crews combing the site for bodies this morning were met by the sound of ringing cell phones, reports CNN.
The band’s guitarist Rodrigo Martins told a local radio station that they have already begun getting hostile messages. “People on the social networks are saying we have to pay for what happened,” Martins said. “I’m afraid there could be retaliation.”
The incident is similar to the 2003 nightclub fire at The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island. 100 people died during a Great White concert there, including the band’s guitarist Ty Longley, after band pyrotechnics set the place ablaze.