Brazil: Night club fire kills 231 (PHOTOS, VIDEO)



People run away as firefighters try to put out a fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria, 550 Km from Porto Alegre, southern Brazil on January 27, 2012.


Germano Roratto

SAO PAULO, Brazil – At least 231 people were killed after a fire broke out at a crowded night club in southern Brazil. Hundreds more are injured, said police and firefighters in the city of Santa Maria.

It looked "like a war zone," said state lawmaker Valderci Oliveria. 

Brazilian radio reporter Sara Bodowsky told World News anchor David Muir: "We have 232 bodies laid down, side by side, so the families go inside one by one. They look at the bodies," she said.

Three people, including the night club's owner Elissandro Sphor, have been arrested, CNN reported.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, who cut short a visit to Chile, is visiting survivors at the city's Caridade hospital, the BBC reported.

The fire began when a band on the stage started a fireworks display during their set. There was only one exit at the club, named Kiss.

Major Gerson de Rosa Ferreira, a senior police official overseeing military police rescue efforts at the scene, told Reuters that at least 159 of the bodies have been identified and removed from the club.

"It was terrible inside. It was like one of those films of the Holocaust, bodies piled atop one another," inspector Sandro Meinerz told CNN on Sunday. "We had to use trucks to remove them. It took about six hours to take the bodies away."

He explained that a majority of the victims had suffocated or been trampled.

Brazil's UOL news portal has reported that 48 are still hospitalized with varying injuries.

The night club had just one door, which caused a panic when the fire broke out. Firefighters said they had to open a large hole in the outside wall of the building in order to facilitate the rescue of those still trapped inside.

The night club had a capacity of up to 2,000 people, and according to a local reporter, cited by the BBC, it was full when the fire started.

CNN reported the night club was actually 1,000 people over capacity.

Santa Maria, located at the southern tip of Brazil, near the borders of Argentina and Uruguay, is a major university city. It's population is about 250,000, the Associated Press reported.

[View the story "Day after Santa Maria's night club fire" on Storify]