In a tragedy hauntingly reminiscent of the incident that killed more than 100 fans at a Great White concert in 2003, 233 people were killed early Sunday morning (Jan. 27) after fire swept through a nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil.

Witnesses told the Associated Press that the fire at the Kiss nightclub began when members of the band Gurizada Fandangueira lit flares onstage, causing the soundproofing of the club's roof to catch fire.

Guitarist Rodrigo Martins says the band started playing at 2:15 AM. "We had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning," he states (quote via the Huffington Post). "It might have happened because of the Sputnik, the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks. It's harmless, we never had any trouble with it."

Martins adds that the band tried to stop the fire. "When the fire started, a guard passed us a fire extinguisher, the singer tried to use it but it wasn't working."

The flames engulfed the nightclub so quickly that there was little firefighters could do, witnesses report. Shirtless young clubgoers tried to help firefighters by hitting the exterior walls of the club with axes in a vain attempt to free those trapped inside, but the fire spread too rapidly and produced too much smoke. People who were attempting to escape through the club's single exit were blocked by the bodies of the dead. 50 bodies were found inside a bathroom, leading investigators to believe that the thick smoke had confused trapped people into thinking the bathroom door was the club's front door.

Authorities state that most of those who lost their lives died from asphyxiation and did not suffer serious burns. Accordion player Danilo Jacques, 28, was among those who perished in the blaze.

The Associated Press reports Sunday's fire is the worst at a nightclub since December 2000. It is tragically similar to the 2003 fire at a nightclub called The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in which pyrotechnics from the glam-rock band Great White set the ceiling's soundproofing on fire, causing a blaze that swept the club. Great White guitarist Ty Longley was among the 100 who lost their lives that night.

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