Rescue workers gather at the fire site in Santa Maria, southern Brazil, Jan. 27, 2013. A fire in a crowded nightclub in Santa Maria killed at least 180 people and injured more than 200 others early Sunday, local television reports said. (Xinhua/AGENCIA ESTADO)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- A major fire in a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil killed at least 180 people and injured more than 200 others early Sunday, local television reports said.
Reports quoted police sources as saying the death toll from the "Kiss" nightclub fire in Santa Maria could rise as an investigation of the blaze continues. Police believe there are about 20 bodies still inside the club.
There was a party for college students in the nightclub when the fire started, according to local reports. At around 2:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), a band member performing on stage reportedly lit fireworks that caused the fire.
The fire developed very fast, with the room quickly filling with black smoke. There was only one exit for the nightclub, causing some trampling as partgoers tried to escape.
Mayor Gerson da Rosa Ferreira said the deaths were caused by asphyxiation or trampling and that 500 people were in the nightclub when the fire broke out.
Reports said the nightclub, which can hold 2,000 people, was popular among local youths and college students.
Santa Maria is located at the southern tip of Brazil near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay. It is a major university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.