Deadly nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil, 27 January 2013

237 people have been killed and 143 injured in a Brazilian nightclub fire sparked by what witnesses described as a flare or firework lit by members of a band performing onstage.

The flare then ignited flammable acoustic foam in the ceiling. According to the authorities, reasons for the high death toll include the lack of emergency exits (the only access in and out of the building was the front door), the lack of emergency infrastructure such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers (only faulty ones were available) or sprinkler systems, and the fact that the number of people inside exceeded the maximum capacity by hundreds. The majority of the victims (90%) succumbed to smoke inhalation.

A fire department official stated that the club's front door was locked. He told CNN: "This overcrowding made it difficult for people to leave, and according to the information we have, the security guards trapped the victims inside." Survivors have said the club's fire extinguishers failed to work in early attempts to battle the blaze. Under state law, an extinguisher must have a receipt showing it had been independently inspected within a year.

The fire has the second-highest death toll for an entertainment event in Brazil; it is second only to the 1961 Niterói circus fire, which killed more than 500 people.

The tragedy raised questions about the reliability of safety regulations in a nation set to host the World Cup and Olympic Games. Documents obtained by The Associated Press, including past building and fire safety plan permits issued to the club, showed that the single exit, the foam insulation and other contributors to the tragedy didn't violate laws.

The same documents show that other regulations were broken, including irregularities in the fire safety inspection of the club, as well as pyrotechnics used by the band that police say should not have been set off indoors. Police inspectors say any of the violations was reason enough to shut the club down.

Amid the shock of what was the world's deadliest nightclub fire in a decade, changes in Brazil are coming up. In Brasilia, lawmakers in the lower house work on a proposal that would require federal safety minimum standards across Brazil. Now states individually create such laws.

This fire catastrophe shows that regulations and fire safety have to be improved worldwide. One approach is to use construction products withstanding fire sources of lower (lighters, matches, candles) and medium energy (flares) to prevent or delay initiating fires.

More details on the fire: