- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 27, 2013

A fire early Sunday at a crowded Brazilian nightclub set off a stampede killing at least 232 people. It appears to be the world’s deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade.

Witnesses said the fire could have been started by a flare or firework lit by a band member, The Associated Press reports.

“The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward. At that point the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak but in a matter of seconds it spread,” survivor Michele Pereira told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

Luana Santos Silva, another survivor, told Globo TV that firefighters responded quickly but that the fire spread too fast inside the packed club for them to help.

“There was so much smoke and fire. It was complete panic, and it took a long time for people to get out. There were so many dead,” Ms. Silva said.

Many other partygoers helped firefighters by grabbing sledgehammers and axes, shattering windows to free those who were still caught inside.

Civil police spokesman Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha earlier that the total number of deaths is still unclear and there may be hundreds injured.

Officials originally said 245 people had been killed.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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