Update: Police have lowered the death toll to 232 people.
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- A fire swept through a crowded nightclub in southern Brazil early Sunday, killing at least 245 people and leaving at least 200 injured, police and firefighters said.
Police Maj. Cleberson Braida told local news media that the 245 bodies were brought for identification to a gymnasium in the city of Santa Maria.
That toll apparently would make it the deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade.
Braida said the club had only one working exit, and the majority of victims died trampled in an attempt to flee.
The cause of the blaze was still under investigation but authorities told local reporters that fireworks, perhaps shot off by the band, erupted in the midst of the performance and one hit the roof.
Michele Schneid, a 22-year-old cashier, told local news media that people began to shout "Fire!," setting off the stampede.
"Many people ran for the bathrooms and wound up dying suffocated," he said.
The newspaper Diario de Santa Maria reported that the fire started at around 2 a.m. at the Kiss nightclub in the city at the southern tip of Brazil, near the borders with Argentina and Uruguay.
Ezekiel Corte Real, 23, was quoted by the paper as saying that he helped people to escape. "I just got out because I'm very strong," he said.
Police estimated 900 people were in the club when the fire broke out.
The fire led President Dilma Roussef to cancel a series of meetings she had scheduled at a summit of Latin American and European leaders in Chile's capital of Santiago, and was headed to Santa Maria, according to the Brazilian foreign ministry.
"It is a tragedy for all of us. I am not going to continue in the meeting (in Chile) for very clear reasons," she said.
"Sad Sunday", tweeted Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. He said all possible action was being taken and that he would be in the city later in the day.
Santa Maria is a university city with a population of around a quarter of a million.
A welding accident reportedly set off a Dec. 25, 2000, fire at a club in Luoyang, China, killing 309.
At least 194 people died at an overcrowded working-class nightclub in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2004.
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.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thursday, May 23 2013 4:38 PM EDT2013-05-23 20:38:55 GMT
For 12 years Denise Glasford's sister fought in the Army, but died last year on Memorial Day. "Thinking about her and wishing she was still here with us," Glasford said. "It's been a tough year for the family." GlasfordMore >>
Glasford and her niece and nephew are three of dozens of family members paying tribute to soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here at Fort Gordon's Warrior Remembrance Memorial Day Ceremony, they're honoring those killed, and remembering those they left behind. Soldiers say the national holiday is much more than a day off from work to barbeque and celebrate.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 3:16 PM EDT2013-05-23 19:16:52 GMT
Ryan David Jones/Source: RCSO
Friends and neighbors now say the Jones Family, Edna, Roosevelt, and Russell, are the victims of a suspected triple homicide in South Augusta.The Richmond County Sheriff's Office has been investigatingMore >>
The Richmond County Sheriff Office has charged Ryan David Jones with 3 counts of Murder and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Crime.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 8:10 AM EDT2013-05-23 12:10:07 GMT
The images we're seeing in Oklahoma having a heavy impact on viewers around the country and here in the CSRA. Lindsay Findley says she was heartbroken when she found out about it. "It's just so sad toMore >>
Thirty disaster relief volunteers and vehicles have been sent to Oklahoma; three of them from the Palmetto region. And at any moment, volunteers with the Aiken chapter could be deployed.More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 11:34 PM EDT2013-05-23 03:34:56 GMT
Susan Swanson owns the Augusta Care Pregnancy Center on Broad Street. There is a two hour limited parking sign in front of her company but she says no one enforces it. The parking limit downtown has beenMore >>
Susan Swanson owns the Augusta Care Pregnancy Center on Broad Street. There is a two hour limited parking sign in front of her company but she says no one enforces it.More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 11:20 PM EDT2013-05-23 03:20:40 GMT
A vigil for the family members killed in a suspected triple homicide was held at the Augusta Deliverance Evangelical Church Wednesday night. The vigil for Roosevelt Jones, Edna Jones and their son Russell JonesMore >>
A vigil for the family members killed in a suspected triple homicide was held at the Augusta Deliverance Evangelical Church Wednesday night.More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 8:42 PM EDT2013-05-23 00:42:44 GMT
It's been two days since a tornado ripped through Moore, Ok nearly destroying the town along with two schools; now one local school is re-evaluating their safety plans. Even though it's the last weekMore >>
It's been two days since a tornado ripped through Moore, Ok nearly destroying the town along with two schools; now one local school is re-evaluating their safety plans. More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 8:39 PM EDT2013-05-23 00:39:09 GMT
Mobility, the company that runs Augusta's Public Transit, is now suing the city after the Richmond County Commission voted to terminate their five year contract. Mobility's attorney Robert Mullins toldMore >>
Mobility, the company that runs Augusta's Public Transit, is now suing the city after the Richmond County Commission voted to terminate their five year contract.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:53 PM EDT2013-05-22 02:53:51 GMT
Family, friends and fellow officers said goodbye to Deputy Alton Creech Tuesday morning. A funeral was held at First Baptist Church on Walton Way. Deputy Creech crashed his motorcycle on I-20, lastMore >>
Hundreds attend the funeral of Deputy Allen Creech.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:51 PM EDT2013-05-22 02:51:46 GMT
Carole Timmerman lives on Ferree Place in Graniteville and after a severe storm rolled through Aiken County Tuesday, she had to watch where she stepped. "It's horrible, it's so dangerous," said TimmermanMore >>
Aiken County Emergency Management officials say there were wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour. The strong winds uprooted trees, caused power lines to fall and tore into homes. More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:30 PM EDT2013-05-22 02:30:22 GMT
Patrons may lose a popular shopping area in Aiken. The Aiken Mall has been foreclosed after the owner stopped making payments on the interest of the property in April.The Aiken County clerk of courts sayMore >>
Patrons may lose a popular shopping area in Aiken. The Aiken Mall has been foreclosed after the owner stopped making payments on the interest of the property in April.More >>