Rio de Janeiro, Jan 28 (IANS/EFE) The toll from the fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria, a city in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state, has been revised downward to 232, with 131 people injured, police said Sunday.
Officials initially said at least 245 people were killed and 48 injured in the fire early Sunday at the Kiss nightclub.
The fire killed 120 men and 112 women, police said.
Many of the victims were students at the Federal University in Santa Maria who were attending a party at the club.
The blaze started around 2:30 a.m., when fireworks were set off inside the club.
“It all started because they used fireworks in an enclosed space. That caused a fire and very toxic smoke that spread rapidly,” Rio Grande do Sul fire chief Col. Guido de Melo said.
The club’s operating license expired last year, Rio Grande do Sul fire department central region chief Lt. Col. Moises da Silva Fuchs told the G1 news web site.
“It has been expired since August. The license is needed for the normal operation of the establishment,” Da Silva Fuchs said.
One of the bands performing at the club fired a flare, starting the blaze, club security guard Rodrigo Moura told the Diario de Santa Maria newspaper.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 people were packed into the establishment when the fire started, Moura said.
Patrons tried to push their way out of the nightclub amid the smoke, trampling many people, officials said.
The city will observe a 30-day mourning period, Santa Maria Mayor Cezar Schirmer said Sunday.
President Dilma Rousseff, who was attending the CELAC-EU summit in Santiago, Chile, cancelled all of her events and flew to Santa Maria to express her support for the relatives of the victims and offer assistance.
Rousseff visited Santa Maria’s Caridade Hospital, where many of the injured are being treated, and spoke with victims and their relatives, officials said.
The president later went to the city’s sports center, where a makeshift morgue to handle the bodies recovered at the nightclub was set up.
The nightclub fire in Santa Maria was the worst blaze in Brazil in more than 50 years, media reports said.
The worst fire in Brazil’s history occurred Dec 17, 1961, during a circus performance in the city of Niteroi, where at least 503 people, the majority of them children, died.