Brazil nightclub
A fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria has killed at least 245 young people (Reuters) Reuters

At least 245 young people are thought to have died in a fire at a nightclub in Brazil.

Many of the victims died inhaling toxic fumes during the rush to escape through the venue's single exit, according to local media reports.

"There was so much smoke and fire, it was complete panic and it took a long time for people to get out, there were so many dead," survivor Luana Santos Silva told the Globo TV network.

Michele Pereira, another survivor, told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that she was near the stage and that the fire broke out after band members lit flares.

"The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward. At that point the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak but in a matter of seconds it spread," Pereira said.

The blaze is believed to have started at 2am local time at the Kiss nightclub in the city of Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Sul, following a fireworks show for a local band.

Sound proofing material in the building reportedly caught fire, and smoke from this asphyxiated victims.

The blaze spread quickly and produced a thick black smoke. One unconfirmed report said 200 people or more had died in the tragedy.

It is thought the venue only had one emergency exit and firefighters made a hole in the wall to help people escape.

Firefighters confirmed all the deaths were due to smoke inhalation.

"We have just taken the fire under control," Colonel Silvia Fuchs of the local fire department told Reuters.

"Now we are removing the bodies.

"Fire services are looking for other victims. We can't give an exact number of victims. People started panicking and ended up treading on each other," fire chief Guido de Melo told local media.

A local governor tweeted: "Sad Sunday. We are taking appropriate action. I'll Be in Santa Maria in the late morning."