Chaos descended on the southern Brazilian town of Santa Maria Saturday night after a massive fire swept through a busy nightclub. As of midday Sunday, at least 245 have died, with another 200 injured, making this the deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade, the Associated Press reports.
Witnesses told police that a flare or firework might have sparked the blaze — but details remain hazy.
(PHOTOS FROM THE SCENE: Chaos Outside Brazil Nightclub)
The party goers were attending a university celebration at Kiss nightclub, located at the southern tip of Brazil, near the country’s borders with Uruguay and Argentina. The 245 bodies were brought to a nearby gymnasium for identification, as hundreds of injured people struggled to evacuate. Video footage from the scene showed onlookers and bystanders joining firefighters as they rushed to break into the building to free survivors still trapped inside.
A club security guard said the venue was packed at full capacity of between 1,000 and 2,000 guests, according to the Associated Press. As panic set in following the blaze, some guests tried to help each other escape, while others were pushing and shoving. CNN reports that most of those killed appeared to have died from smoke inhalation.
The death toll is expected to grow as more bodies are identified.