Survivors of the Brazil nightclub blaze that claimed more than 200 lives Sunday described how a concert venue turned into a death trap when the band's pyrotechnics display ignited the insulation in the ceiling.
Witnesses at the Boate Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, in southern Brazil, told local media outlets that it only took minutes for the fire to burn out of control. Police said overcrowding contributed to the death toll, as some people were trampled to death in the rush to the exits, according to CNN
. A majority of the victims appeared to have died from smoke inhalation, not burns.
Eyewitnesses described the scene as chaotic, as people panicked when the sparks, which were initially thought to be a slight mechanical mishap, quickly became an inferno.
"I saw some sparks, lots of shouting, and I thought it was some kind of fight," 23-year-old Fernanda Freire Gomes Bona, the nightclub's photographer, told the Globo newspaper
. "That's when they shouted 'Fire!' I saw people running and I ran out, too."
Murilo de Toledo Tiecher, a 26-year-old medical student, said the scene was mass confusion and the "worst desperation," as security guards took a while to catch on to what was happening.
"People were screaming 'there's a fire' but the security guards didn't budge and tried to keep the door shut," he told the Zero Hora newspaper. "Five or six people knocked over one security guard and knocked down the door. It was the only exit."
The pandemonium inside the club spilled onto the Santa Maria streets as people climbed over each other to escape the fire.
"I saw victims who had one side of their face melted," Max Muller, who was walking by as the chaos unfolded, told news agency AFP. "It is horrible to see so many dead people, kids, on the ground; people crying, other people throwing up, who can't breathe. Some were ripping people's clothes off to do CPR but had no idea what they were doing."
Police inspector Sandro Meinerz told The Associated Press that the club resembled the Holocaust, with bodies piled up on top of each other.
Sunday's fire appeared to be the worst at a nightclub since December 2000, when a welding accident reportedly set off a fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.
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