A fire swept through a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday [Jan. 27], killing at least 180 people and leaving hundreds injured, police and firefighters said.
Sandro Meinerz, a spokesman for the police in the city of Santa Maria, told local media that the fire broke out at the Kiss club while a band was performing. He said at least 200 people were injured.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, officials said. The total number of victims is still unclear and there may be hundreds injured, Civil Police and regional government spokesman Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha.
Arigoni told the radio station a truck carrying 70 bodies had arrived at the Municipal Sports Center, which was being used as an improvised morgue.
Diario de Santa Maria reported that the fire started at around 2 a.m.
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.
Ezekiel Corte Real, 23, was quoted by the paper as saying that he helped people to escape. "I just got out because I'm very strong”, he said.
"Sad Sunday", tweeted Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. He said all possible action was being taken and that he would be in the city later in the day.
Santa Maria, at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.