Nightclub fire kills 245 in Brazil

A fire in a nightclub killed about 245 people in southern Brazil 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 started by a band member or someone from its production team igniting a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling, said Luiza Sousa, a civil police official. The fire spread "in seconds," she said. Local fire officials said at least one exit was locked and that 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. The vast majority of the victims, most of them university students, died from asphyxiation, officials said. Others were crushed in the stampede.
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.