THREE people have been arrested in Brazil over a nightclub blaze that claimed the lives of more the 230 people, and injured hundreds of others.
Police arrested the owner of the nightclub, Kiss, the club's head of security and a member of the band Gurizada Fandangueira, who were playing on stage when the fire broke out.
The fast-moving fire roared through the crowded, windowless nightclub filling the air in seconds with flames and a thick, toxic smoke.
Inspectors believe the blaze began when the band’s small pyrotechnics show ignited foam sound insulating material on the ceiling, releasing a putrid haze that caused scores of university students to choke to death.
Most victims died from smoke inhalation rather than burns in what appeared to be the world’s deadliest nightclub fire in more than a decade.
Coffins of the victims lined a local gymnasium in Santa Maria. Family members were shown into the makeshift morgue, where they tried to identify their loved ones for burial.
Outside the gym police held up personal objects - a black purse, a blue high-heeled shoe – as people seeking information on loved ones crowded around, hoping not to recognise anything being shown them.
Survivors and the police inspector Marcelo Arigony said security guards briefly tried to block people from exiting the club.
Brazilian bars routinely make patrons pay their entire tab at the end of the night before they are allowed to leave.
But Mr Arigony said the guards did not appear to block fleeing patrons for long.
“It was chaotic and it doesn’t seem to have been done in bad faith because several security guards also died,” he said.
Television images from Santa Maria, a university city of about 260,000 people, showed black smoke billowing out of the Kiss nightclub as shirtless young men who attended the university party joined firefighters using axes and sledgehammers to pound at the hot-pink exterior walls, trying to reach those trapped inside.