Brazil nightclub fire kills 233, injuring hundreds

    6:34 AM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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    SANTA MARIA, BRAZIL (CNN) -- The death toll in a horrific nightclub fire in Brazil has reached 233 with more than a hundred people injured. A fire ripped through the packed club early Sunday. Investigators say many died of smoke inhalation while others were trampled to death in the panic to escape the fire.

    As crews searched the charred wreckage of the nightclub Sunday they reported the eerie sound of cell phones ringing going unanswered.

    A fire swept through the "Kiss" nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil around 2 a.m. Sunday.

    A state fire official says about 2,000 people were in the club, that's double its maximum capacity.

    Investigators think pyrotechnics used by the band may have caused it. State fire official Guido de Melo says, "People who were inside the facility informed us that when they came out security guards blocked the exit to prevent people there from leaving and that's when the crowd started panicking and the tragedy grew worse."

    Authorities say most of the victims were found near the club's bathrooms; the roof also collapsed trapping many.

    A local gymnasium was turned into a makeshift morgue while families scrambled to locate loved ones. Melo says, "There are a lot of people scattered around hospital's different departments as well as intensive care units who have not been identified. It is now a big number but the people waiting outside for news are desperate."

    Brazil's president cut short a summit in Chile to oversee the government's response. President Dilma Rousseff says, "To the Brazilian people and the people of Santa Maria we stand together at this time and even though there is a lot of sadness we will pull through."

    This fire reminds many of a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island where a band's pyrotechnics ignited a blaze that killed 100 people. Survivors say the lessons from that fire are not being learned. One survivor says, "I can help but watch cause I'm one of them. It's just devastating that someone else has to experience it. This is the third time there's been a fire in a nightclub since our fire; this was more devastating than ours."

    Fire investigators in Brazil are questioning the club's owner and witnesses revealed the club's license expired in august and had not been renewed.

    Pyrotechnics were involved in a 2004 nightclub fire in Argentina that killed 194 people and a 2009 explosion at a nightclub in Russia that left more than 100 dead.

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