Fire swept through a popular nightclub in the Brazilian city of Santa Maria on Saturday night, killing at least 245 people and injuring hundreds.
A fire swept through a popular nightclub in southern Brazil on Sunday, killing at least 245 people, state media reported, citing police.
The death toll was expected to climb as firefighters continued to pull bodies from the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, said Col. Adilomar Silva, the regional coordinator of civil defense.
Most of those killed appeared to have died of smoke inhalation, Silva said. Hundreds are believed to have been injured, though an exact count was not immediately available.
Many people were trampled in the panic to leave the club, one security guard told CNN affiliate Band News.
Smoke billowed outside the front of the building as the stench of fire filled the air, said Max Muller, who was riding by on his motorbike when he saw the blaze.
Muller recorded video of a chaotic scene outside the club, which showed emergency crews tending to victims and dazed clubgoers standing in the street. Bodies laid on the ground beside ambulances.
Friends who were inside the club told him that many struggled to find the exits in the dark. Muller, who was not inside the club Sunday morning but has been there twice before, said there were no exit signs over the doors. It is rare to see such signs in Brazilian clubs.
Video from the scene showed firefighters shooting streams of water at the club and shirtless men trying to break down a wall with axes.
Hours later, families and friends searching for information were outside a nearby sporting complex, where bodies were taken for identification, the state-run Agencia Brasil reported.
The cause of the fire is officially undetermined but pyrotechnics were being used by the band. This is reminiscent of a 2003 fire in a Rhode Island club where pyrotechnics ignited the ceiling and 90 people died.
One eyewitness said the club was very dark and there were no exit signs above the doors.
The death toll is expected to rise substantially.