At least 232 people have died in a fire that swept through Kiss nightclub in university city Santa Maria in southern Brazil, police and officials say.
Local media say the fire began when a band let off fireworks at the Kiss club in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul.
Many victims reportedly inhaled toxic fumes or were crushed as panicking clubbers tried to escape.
Bereaved families have gathered at the scene where the fire is out and bodies are being removed.
President Dilma Rousseff, who cut short a visit to Chile, has been visiting survivors at the city’s Caridade hospital along with government ministers.
She said earlier that everything possible would be done to help the injured and the families of the victims.
“I would also like to say to the Brazilian people and to the people of Santa Maria that we stand together at this time, and that even though there’s a lot of sadness, we will pull through,” she said, speaking from Chile.
In a tweet, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Tarso Genro, said it was a “sad Sunday” and that all possible action was being taken in response to the fire. He would be in the city later on Sunday, he added.
The priority for the authorities is now to identify the dead with many distressed relatives arriving at the scene, but in the hours ahead the focus will turn to the cause of this accident and safety procedures at the club.
The death toll, which had earlier been put at 245, was revised down by fire officials. Emergency services said a further 117 people were being treated in hospital.
The fire broke out some time after 02:00 when between 300 and 500 people are believed to have been in the club, where a band was playing.
According to local newspaper Diario de Santa Maria, students from the city’s federal university (UFSM) were holding a freshers’ ball.
Thick smoke engulfed the venue after acoustic insulation caught fire, officials say.
“We looked up at the ceiling in front of the stage and it was catching fire,” eyewitness Luana Santos Silva, 23, told Brazil’s Globo TV.
“My sister grabbed me and dragged me out on the ground.”
The exit, she said, was a “small door for lots of people to come out by”.
The young woman’s sister, Aline Santos Silva, 29, added: “We managed to see it in time and to get out quickly, before the smoke began to spread.
“The smoke spread really quickly, it didn’t give enough time for people to get out. I think people started to feel unwell, and then they began to come out covered in black smoke stains.”
The witness commended the emergency services: “Help arrived really quickly, ambulances, police.”
Fire crews tried knocking through an exterior wall to help those trapped inside to escape.
Fifty bodies were found in the club’s toilets, a doctor told AP news agency.
“The toxic smoke made people lose their sense of direction so they were unable to find their way to the exit,” said Dr. Paulo Afonso Beltrame, speaking by phone from Caridade hospital.
“Apparently they confused the bathroom door with the exit door.”
Fire chief Guido de Melo told local media: “People started panicking and ended up treading on each other.”
A temporary morgue has been set up in a local gym as the city’s main morgue is unable to cope.
Family members have begun identifying the dead at the gym, Diario de Santa Maria reports.
They were led in one by one to see the bodies, according to the paper.
President Dilma Rousseff said the air force had made “resources” available at an air base near Santa Maria to help.
Santa Maria has a population of about 250,000 people, while UFSM has some 27,000 students.