A heavy metal band's pyrotechnical show sparked a deadly fire Friday at a Bucharest nightclub, killing 27 people and injuring scores of the club's youthful patrons, officials and witnesses say. Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea initially said an explosion occurred at Colectiv club, located in a basement in a building in downtown Bucharest, but authorities heading the rescue effort later said there had been a fire and a stampede but no explosion. Witnesses told Antena 3 TV that there were between 300 to 400 mostly young people at the club, housed in a former factory, and only one exit door when the metal band Goodbye to Gravity was performing and a pyrotechnical show went awry.
The station reports that people panicked and rushed for the exit. Digi 24 television station cited witnesses who said a spark on stage ignited some polystyrene decor. Clubgoers initially thought the flames were part of the show and did not immediately react. Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who cut short a visit to Mexico to return to Bucharest, decreed three days of mourning starting immediately for victims of the disaster. An emergency official says 17 of those who died still have not been identified and he fears the death toll will rise. "It is a tragedy without precedent," he says. As of early Saturday, at least 146 people were still hospitalized around the capital, many with serious injuries.