Porto Alegre, Brazil — A fire in a nightclub killed at least 245 people in southern Brazil on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing patrons were unable to find the emergency exits in the ensuing panic, officials said.
The blaze in the southern city of Santa Maria was started when a band member or someone from its production team ignited a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling, said Luiza Sousa, a civil police official. The fire spread "in seconds," she said.
An estimated 500 people were in the Boate Kiss nightclub when the fire broke out early on Sunday, and many were unable to find the exits as dark smoke quickly filled the room. At least one exit was locked, trapping hundreds inside to die, many from asphyxiation as they inhaled smoke, police said.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile early Sunday to return home following the blaze. Governor Tarso Genro of Rio Grande do Sul is quoted in a Twitter message as saying "all possible measures" were being taken and that he was on his way to the scene.