Panicked crowds pushed toward the exits as fire swept through a packed nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday. Hundreds didn't escape in time from the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. The blaze killed at least 245 people, many of whom apparently died from smoke inhalation, police said. Others were trampled in the rush for the exits, one security guard told CNN affiliate Band News.
"People started running," survivor Luana Santos Silva told CNN affiliate Globo. "I fell on the floor." Deadly blazes: Nightclub tragedies in recent history The fire started "from out of nowhere" on a stage at the club and quickly spread to the ceiling, witness Jairo Vieira told Band News.Max Muller, who was riding by on his motorbike, recorded video of a chaotic scene outside the club, which showed emergency crews tending to victims and dazed clubgoers standing in the street. Bodies lay 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. One nearby hospital released a list of dozens of injured. Police told Band News that 90% of the victims were found in the club's bathrooms.
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. Deadly fire sweeps through Brazil club Deadly nightclub fire in Brazil Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became teary-eyed as she spoke of the tragedy to reporters in Chile, where she has been attending a regional summit.
"There just weren't enough emergency exits," Mateus Vargas, a witness who was inside the club when the fire broke out, told Band News. The Kiss nightclub is popular with young people in Santa Maria, drawing between 2,000 and 3,000 people a night on the weekends. The blaze broke out during a weekend when students were celebrating the end of summer. Students at many Brazilian universities return to school on Monday. Santa Maria is home to the Federal University of Santa Maria as well as a number of other private universities and colleges.