A blaze at a Brazilian nightclub left 232 dead early Sunday morning, in what appears to be the world's deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade, reported USA Today.
More than 100 were injured when the fire broke out at 2 a.m. at a nightclub called Kiss in Santa Maria, Brazil, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay.
The blaze killed at least 232 people, many of whom apparently died from smoke inhalation, state-run Agencia Brasil reported, citing fire officials. Others were trampled in the rush for the exits, one security guard told CNN affiliate Band News. More than 130 people were hospitalized, Agencia Brasil said
Investigators have received preliminary information that security guards stopped people from exiting the club, he told Globo TV.
The vast majority of the victims, most of them university students, died from asphyxiation, officials told Reuters. Others were crushed in the stampede.
"We ran into a barrier of the dead at the building's exit," Colonel Guido Pedroso de Melo, commander of the Santa Maria fire squad, said of the scene firefighters found on arrival. "We had to clear a path to get to the rest of those that were inside."
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who started her political career in the Rio Grande do Sul state where the fire happened, cut short a visit to Chile to return to visit the scene. Before leaving Chile, she broke out in tears as she pledged government help for the victims and their families, reported Reuters.
The blaze started when a band member or someone from its production team ignited a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling, said Luiza Sousa, a civil police official. The fire spread "in seconds," she said.
The disaster recalls other incidents including a 2003 fire at a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100, and a Buenos Aires nightclub blaze in 2004 that killed nearly 200. In both incidents, a band or members of the audience ignited fires that set the establishment ablaze.