Brasilia: A fire swept through a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday, killing at least 232 people and leaving at least 200 injured, police and firefighters said.
Police Maj. Cleberson Braida told local news media that the 232 bodies were brought for identification to a gymnasium in the city of Santa Maria.
That toll would make it one of the deadliest nightclub fires more than a decade.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, officials said. Officials earlier put the death toll at 180.
Civil Police and regional government spokesman Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha earlier that the total number of victims is still unclear and there may be hundreds injured.
The newspaper Diario de Santa Maria reported that the fire started at around 2 a.m. at the Kiss nightclub in the city at the southern tip of Brazil, near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay.
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 is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.
A welding accident reportedly set off a Dec. 25, 2000, fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.
At least 194 people died at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2004. 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 US 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.
Deadly fires at entertainment venues:
Below are some of the deadliest fires this century entertainment venues.
Among the worst fires in Brazil was at a circus in Niteroi in 1961 in which 323 people died after an arson attack. Among the deadliest ever fires at a nightclub was at the Cocoanut Grove in Boston on Nov. 28, 1942, when 492 were killed.
This century, these fires have caused heavy casualties:
- March 29, 2000 - Paradise video parlour, an illegal porn cinema, at Jiaozuo in China's Henan province. 74 dead.
- Dec. 25, 2000 - Mall at Luoyang, China; fire engulfs building workers and Christmas party at discotheque. 309 dead.
- Dec. 1, 2002 - La Coajira nightclub, Caracas. 50 dead.
- Feb. 20, 2003 - Station nightclub, West Warwick, Rhode Island; fireworks during heavy metal concert. 100 dead.
- Dec. 30, 2004 - Republica Cromagnon nightclub, Buenos Aires; flare for New Year party hits foam ceiling. 192 dead.
- Jan. 1, 2009 - Santika nightclub, Bangkok; New Year party. 61 dead.
- Dec. 5, 2009 - Lame Horse nightclub, Perm, Russia; indoor fireworks ignite wicker ceiling. At least 155 dead.
- Jan. 27, 2013 - Kiss nightclub, Santa Maria, Brazil; band had fireworks show. Police expect death toll to be over 245.