Santa Maria, Brazil: A fire sparked by a music band’s fireworks swept through a nightclub thronged with University students in Southern Brazil’s Santa Maria, killing at least 233, with most of them dying after inhaling toxic smoke.
Brazil has declared three days of national mourning for the fire tragedy whereas in Santa maria a 30-day mourning was declared.
Also, as a sign of mourning, a ceremony due in Brazil`s capital on Monday to mark 500 days to Football World Cup 2014, was cancelled.
There was a university party going on in ‘Kiss nightclub’ in Brazilian city of Santa Maria when the blaze was caused by a pyrotechnics show by a band, filling the space with thick toxic fumes that were inhaled by the people rushing out to escape thus causing a stampede.
Most of the deaths were caused by the inhalation of the toxic smoke and others were crushed in the stampede of people rushing to escape through a single exit.
The single exit way was almost blocked with the bodies so much so that even the firefighters had trouble getting in the nightclub to douse the fire.
The investigation is underway and police officials said to a news agency that the band was to blame for a pyrotechnics show and that manslaughter charges could be filed.
With 233 deaths, the fire disaster in the university city of Santa Maria known for its university clusters is one of the deadliest fire tragedies since December 2000, when a welding accident reportedly set off a fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.
In 2004, at least 194 people died in a fire at an overcrowded nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Seven members of a band were sentenced to prison for starting the flames.
A blaze at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm, Russia, killed 152 people in December 2009 after an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches.
Out of 233 dead, names of 230 victims have been released and remaining three bodies are yet to be identified, the BBC reported.
100 more victims are getting treated in nearby hospitals.
President Dilma Rousseff had to cut short her Chile visit to visit the survivors at the city`s Caridade hospital along with government ministers, it was reported.
"It is a tragedy for all of us," Rousseff said.
Bodies of the dead and injured were strewn in the street and panicked screams filled the air as medics tried to help. There was little to be done; officials said most of those who died were suffocated by smoke within minutes.
Within hours a community gym was a horror scene, with body after body lined up on the floor, partially covered with black plastic as family members identified kin.
Outside the gym police held up personal objects — a black purse, a blue high-heeled shoe — as people seeking information on loved ones looked crowded around, hoping not to recognize anything being shown them.
Police Maj. Cleberson Braida Bastianello said by telephone that the toll had risen to 233 with the death of a hospitalized victim. He said earlier that the death toll was likely made worse because the nightclub appeared to have just one exit through which patrons could exit.
Federal Health Minister Alexandre Padhilha told a news conference that most of the 117 people treated in hospitals had been poisoned by gases they breathed during the fire. Only a few suffered serious burns, he said.
With Agency Inputs