Hundreds Die in Brazilian Nightclub Fire

Blaze reportedly started by band's pyrotechnics

Firefighters try to put out the nightclub fire.
Germano Roratto/AFP/Getty Images
January 27, 2013 5:28 PM ET

More than 230 people were killed in a fire that raged through a nightclub in Brazil early Sunday morning, the Associated Press reports. The majority of the victims were local students, who had packed the Kiss club in the university city of Santa Maria.

According to witnesses, the fire began shortly after 2 a.m., during a set by the local band Gurizada Fandangueira, when a flare from the band's pyrotechnic display ignited the soundproofing on the ceiling. The band's guitarist, Rodrigo Martins, told a Brazilian radio station that the group was around five songs into its set when he noticed that the roof was burning. "It might have happened because of the Sputnik, the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks," Martins said. "It's harmless, we never had any trouble with it." Martins escaped safely with four of his bandmates, but their accordion player, Danilo Jacques, died in the blaze.

Victims of the nightclub fire receive medical assistance in Santa Maria, Brazil.
Victims of the nightclub fire receive medical assistance in Santa Maria, Brazil.
Germano Roratto/AFP/Getty Images

An official with the city's fire department said that the club's security guards had locked the exits, hampering escape and adding to the panic. As of Sunday afternoon, 232 people had been declared dead, making it the deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade.

For many, the incident brings to mind the deadly Rhode Island blaze that broke out in 2003, when pyrotechnics during a set by the band Great White ignited soundproofing on the walls and ceiling. As a result of the incident, which took 100 lives, Rhode Island banned pyrotechnic displays in all but the state's largest venues. 

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Firefighters try to put out the nightclub fire.
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