Many people were crushed to death in the stampede but the officials believe the majority of the victims, most of them university students, died from asphyxiation. "We ran into a barrier of the dead at the building's exit," Colonel Guido Pedroso de Melo, commander of the Santa Maria fire squad, described the scene, firefighters found on arrival. "We had to clear a path to get to the rest of those that were inside," he told Reuters.
When the fire broke at around 2:30am, there were an estimated 500 people present inside the 2,000-person capacity Boate Kiss nightclub – which was always busy on weekends. Survivors who described the scene said that many revelers confused restroom doors for exits and so were unable to manage an exit from the nightclub. “50 bodies were found inside a bathroom,” police have said.
Other reports, however, quoting a security guard at the club, said that the club was at its maximum capacity of between 1,000 and 2,000 and revelers were pushing each other to escape the horrendous fire. According to a local newspaper, the club was filled far past its capacity during a party for students at the university's department of agronomy.
It is unclear as of now if any member of the band, Gurizada Fandangueira, - which plays a driving mixture of local Brazilian country music styles - is among the dead.
Television footage showed inconsolable relatives wailing and firefighters using axes and sledge hammers to break down the exterior of a wall to open up an exit.
A fire at a club in Luoyang in China, set off due to a welding incident on 25 December 2009, killed 309 people. The incident was seen as the deadliest nightclub fire till date.
Even though Brazil has called for 30-day mourning, but uncomfortable questions might be raised over the country’s safety standards and emergency response capabilities as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.