More than 230 people died in one of the biggest fires ever recorded in Brazil, in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul state.2000 clubgoers and staff became trapped inside the Kiss Club, as the only emergency exit was blocked. 232 casualties have been recorded as of yet.
Most of them are between the ages of 16 and 20 years old, 120 of whom are men and 112 women. A party was being held for students at the University of Santa Maria.
The venue was run illegally, and mostly teenagers attended it. It was not equipped with fire extinguishers, and its ceiling had been built with low-quality sound insulation foam.
The entire ceiling caught fire, prompting a stampede. While the cause of the flames has not been established yet, preliminary reports point to pyrotechnic effects used during a concert.
Witness accounts describe that club bouncers initially stopped everyone from leaving the facility, until they settled their bills.
“People were screaming 'there's a fire' but the security guards didn't budge and tried to keep the door shut,” one witness says, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
“Five or six people knocked over one security guard and knocked down the door. It was the only exit,” 26-year-old Murilo de Toledo Tiecher recounts.
“The first people to get out tried to pull out whoever was still inside. Hands and arms appeared from the curtain of smoke. We pulled out various people. I pulled out a girl by the hair. It was chaos, the worst desperation,” he adds.
Around 50 people were found dead in the restroom at the club. Officials believe that they confused the toilet signs for exit markers. Authorities announced that as many as 20 bodies may still be lodged among the wrecks.