A nightclub fire killed at least 233 people
in southern Brazil early on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing partygoers stampeded toward blocked and overcrowded exits in the ensuing panic, officials said.
The blaze in the university town of Santa Maria was ignited by sparks from pyrotechnics used by the band for visual effects. They set fire to soundproofing on the ceiling and the club rapidly filled with toxic smoke, local fire officials said.
Most of those who died were suffocated by fumes, fire brigade Sergeant Robson Muller told Reuters. Others were crushed in the stampede.
"Smoke filled the place instantly, the heat became unbearable," survivor Murilo Tiescher, a medical student, told GloboNews TV. "People could not find the only exit. They went to the toilet thinking it was the exit and many died there."
Fire officials said at least one exit was locked and that club bouncers, who at first thought those fleeing were trying to skip out on bar tabs, initially blocked patrons from leaving. The security staff relented only when they saw flames engulfing the ceiling.