At least 232 people have been killed in a fire at a nightclub in southern Brazil. Local media have reported that a band's pyrotechnics show caused the building to catch fire.
At least 232 people were killed in a fire at the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria early Sunday, according to Police Maj. Cleberson Braida. He says the bodies were brought to a gymnasium in the city.
The initial death toll was given as 245, but Braida said a new count of bodies brought to the gymnasium led to a lower count.
Media reports say the fire broke out after 2:00 am (0400 GMT) when the nightclub was hosting a university party featuring a rock band.
"There was panic after the fire started and many revelers got trampled," Santa Maria fire chief Guido de Melohe is quoted as saying by Estadao newspaper. "The main cause of death was asphyxiation."
According to the newspaper O Globo, sparks from the band's pyrotechnic display hit the soundproof foam on the ceiling and caught fire.
"We have just taken the fire under control," Colonel Silvia Fuchs of the local fire department was quoted by the G1 website as saying. "Now we are removing the bodies."
In the wake of the tragedy, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has cut short her visit to Chile in order to return home. She was participating in the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit (CELAC) in Santiago.
"I wanted to tell the people of our country and of Santa Maria that we are all together at this moment of sadness," said Rousseff before she departed.
"And we will overcome this, though the sadness will remain."
Santa Maria, a major university city, is 300 kilometers (187 miles) west of the state capital, Porto Alegre.
hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa)