Authorities now say 232 people died early today after fire swept through a nightclub in southern Brazil, and they are investigating reports a fireworks show on stage may have started the blaze.

The official cause of the tragedy is unknown, but there are reports the fire may have been caused by a band's pyrotechnics display at the Kiss club in Santa Maria, 300 kilometres west of the state capital, Porto Alegre.

Police had given a death toll of 245, but then revised it lower.


Relatives of victims cry after a fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria, southern Brazil. (Lauro Alves/AFP/Getty)

The Diário de Santa Maria website said the fire broke out around 2 a.m. local time Sunday.

It appears sparks ignited acoustic tiles lining the ceiling, Andrew Downie, a correspondent for Time magazine in Brazil, told CBC News. The blaze quickly spread and thick smoke filled the venue.

Many people were trampled, but the main cause of death was asphyxiation from the smoke, Downie said.

About 200 injured people were taken to area hospitals, the Estadão newspaper reported on its website.


The Kiss nightclub is in Santa Maria, 300 kilometres west of the state capital, Porto Alegre. (Google)

It is unclear if any Canadians died in the blaze. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy released Sunday a joint statement saying officials "are working with Brazilian authorities to determine whether Canadians are among the victims."

The ministers expressed their condolences to the families and friends of the victims. "We stand with our Brazilian friends at this difficult time," the statement read.

"Santa Maria, with a population of around 270,000, is a university town, and there were several school parties going on in the club, Downie said.

"It's also coming up to Carnival in a week's time, so the club was filled with people," he said.

Officials say the club can hold up to 2,000 people and that patrons were pushing and shoving to get out.

Marcos Koboldt, reporter for Radio Guaiba, speaking from Porto Alegre, told CBC the club only had one exit door. He said most of the victims were college students.

Police Maj. Cleberson Braida told local news media that the bodies were brought for identification to a gymnasium in Santa Maria.

Other deadly nightclub fires

The fire appeared to be among the deadliest in a nightclub since a 2004 fire killed 194 people at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A blaze at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm, Russia, broke out on Dec. 5, 2009, when an indoor fireworks display ignited a plastic ceiling decorated with branches, killing 152

A nightclub fire in the U.S. state of Rhode Island in 2003 killed 100 people after pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling.

A welding accident reportedly set off a Dec. 25, 2000, fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.

With files from the Associated Press