At least 232 young people were killed after a fire swept through a nightclub in southern Brazil yesterday when a pyrotechnics show went wrong.
The Irish Times reports that patrons feeling the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, were unable to find the emergency exits as the blaze spread.
Eye-witnesses to the tragedy said that a flare or firework lit by members of a band who were performing in the nightclub may have started the fire.
Television footage of the tragedy showed people sobbing outside the nightclub while shirtless firefighters and patrons used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit.
Firefighters fight the blaze at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria
“It was really fast. There was a lot of smoke, really dark smoke,” said Aline Santos Silva, a survivor, speaking to Globonews TV.
“We are only able to get out quickly because we were in a VIP area close to the door,” she added.
Ms Silva said that firefighters and ambulances responded quickly after the fire broke out, but that it spread within seconds.
“The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward. At that point the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak but in a matter of seconds it spread,” said Michele Pereia, another survivor.
Police Major Celberson Braida Bastianello said that officials counted 232 victims who did not manage to escape the blaze.
Lady Gaga, who recently performed in Brazil, expressed her condolences to the friends and families of the victims by tweeting: