After a band member decided to let off a firework inside a crammed Brazilian nightclub early Saturday morning, the packed venue quickly caught fire and a fun night out turned into something much more terrifying.
The BBC reports the death toll has climbed to 245 people, according to local police and fire officials. (That toll has been scaled back to 230 since this was published.) Local officials told Reuters as many as 500 people were inside Kiss, a Santa Maria, Brazil night club, around 2:30 a.m. when the fire started. A member of the band's crew decided to light a flare and point it towards the ceiling. The fire spread "in seconds," a survivor told Reuters. The Times of India reports most of the dead are teenagers, and the number of people inside the club was closer to 2,000 when they fire started. Local media had this video of the aftermath of the fire scene:
The club's biggest problem was that it only had one exit, according to the BBC. According to one survivor, the exit was a "small door for lots of people to come out by." Firefighters and rescue crews are still working to extract bodies from the club. The death toll is expected to rise.
Local firefighters had to use axes to create another exit so they could extract bodies from the club more easily. Local officials said many of the deaths were from "asphyxiation or from being trampled." The local O Globo has pictures of the immediate aftermath of the fire.
The fire is already drawing comparisons to the 2003 Rhode Island night club fire that killed 96 people in a similar situation. Brazil is also under the microscope because the country is gearing up to host the 2014 World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
"I never witnessed a tragedy like this in my whole career," firefighter Sergeant Arthur Rigue told the BBC. "These people are so young… There were many bodies piled up in various parts of the place. Some were in the toilet. They died of asphyxiation."