SAO PAOLO, Brazil (CNN) — A fire swept through a popular nightclub in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria, killing at least 220 people early Sunday, officials said.
The death toll was expected to climb as firefighters continued to pull bodies from the Kiss nightclub, Col. Adilomar Silva, the regional coordinator of civil defense said. Most of those killed appeared to have died of smoke inhalation, he said. Hundreds are believed to have been injured, though an exact count was not immediately available.
The fire started at about 2 a.m. after the acoustic insulation in the Kiss nightclub caught fire, he said. There was a pyrotechnics show going on inside the club when the fire started. Authorities stopped short of blaming it for the blaze, saying the cause was still under investigation.
The incident brought to mind a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island where pyrotechnics used by the heavy metal band Great White ignited a blaze that killed more than 90 people.
The Kiss nightclub is popular with young people in Santa Maria, drawing between 2,000 and 3,000 people a night on the weekends. The city is home to the Federal University of Santa Maria as well as a number of other private universities and colleges.