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Fire Kills Hundreds in Panic Stricken Brazilian Nightclub

Common Dreams staff

Victims of the Brazil nightclub fire receive medical assistance in Santa Maria. (Germano Roratto/AFP)

A devastating fire inside of a nightclub in Brazil has taken the lives of at least 245 people and injured many others after a band's pyrotechnics set the building on fire early Sunday morning.

Patrons scrambled to find exits in a panic while the fire quickly spread and smoke filled the Boate Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria. Police say most of the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled.

Officials said that fleeing concert goers were unable to find emergency exits. The fire spread "in seconds," said Luiza Sousa, a civil police official, while at least one exit was locked.

The 245 dead represent almost half of the attendees, as officials said 500 in total were in the club.

Firefighters had to break through an outside wall to get to many of the victims.

One of the club's owners has already surrendered to police in Santa Maria for questioning.

“Who’s to blame for the fire will have to be determined in an investigation, but clearly we are starting to see early on that people were not able to escape,” said Gabriel Elizondo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Brazil.

"When I looked around, all I saw were dead bodies all around, lying on the floor. It was macabre," survivor Taynne Vendrusculo told GloboNews TV. "It all happened so fast. Both the panic and the fire spread rapidly, in seconds."

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