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Brazil Nightclub Fire: Survivors Recall Horror
As the first funerals are held for the victims of a nightclub fire in Brazil, some of those who survived the inferno have been recalling a night of mayhem.
Survivor Kelly Rebello de Silva said a black toxic smoke filled the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria and panicked partgoers began trampling each other.
The 21-year-old said the scene was reminiscent of a "horror movie".
"Everyone was pushing and shoving," another survivor, Taynne Vendruscolo, told reporters.
"The fire started out small, but within seconds it exploded. Those who were close to the stage could not get out."
Many of the dead were found in the club's two bathrooms, where they fled apparently because the blinding smoke caused them to believe the doors were exits.
Bodies blocked the club's only exit. Other victims were strewn in the street and panicked screams filled the air as medics tried to help.
There was little to be done; officials said most of those who died suffocated within minutes.
The fire broke out around 2am on Sunday when the nightclub was hosting a university party. Most of the 231 people who died were under 20.
"It's very sad, I lost 13, 14 classmates," a 22-year-old called Felipe said.
Police said the "most plausible cause" of the inferno was that pyrotechnics being used by a band on stage set fire to sound insulation on the ceiling.
The band, Gurizada Fandangueira, is now fearing retaliation, but it has emerged one of their members was killed in the blaze.
Danilo Jacques, 28, originally escaped but died when he went back into the burning building to get his accordion.
The five other band members made it out alive, and two of them have since been arrested by police investigating the blaze.
A friend of 19-year-old engineering student Ana Paula Miller also escaped but later died.
"A friend of mine managed to get out but then had a heart attack and died," Ms Miller said.
Police inspector Sandro Meinerz recalled the devastating scene inside the club.
"It was terrible inside - it was like one of those films of the Holocaust, bodies piled atop one another," he said.
Body after body was taken to a nearby community gym and lined up on the floor, partially covered with black plastic.
Family members identified their kin at the gym, and as dawn broke on Monday, collective wakes were held there.
In one of dozens of urns lined up next to each other, were the ashes of Joao Carlos Barellos da Silva who ran a website covering the parties in the club. His body was found in a bathroom.
"He was a wonderful son. I have never felt such pain," said his mother, Gelsa Ina Barcelos.
Elaine Marques Goncalves lost her son Deivis in the fire. Another son who was at the nightclub, Gustavo, was barely alive after suffering two cardiac arrests caused by smoke inhalation.
She learned of the blaze after the mother of her sons' friends called her.
"My boys were not home and I had no news. I turned on the TV - the tragedy was all over the television," she said at the makeshift morgue.
"All I knew was they had gone to a club, I didn't know which one. I kept saying: 'Where do I start? Where do I go?'"
At a cemetery in Santa Maria, Juliana was in a state of disbelief at the burial of her brother, Heitor Oliveira.
"Why? Why?" she asked during the funeral.
"Quiet Juliana, he has to go," said her mother, Livia.
Brazil is observing three days of national mourning in the wake of the tragedy.