Police say a fire in a nightclub in southern Brazil with just one exit has killed at least 232 people according to their most recent count the deadliest nightclub fire in a decade.Another 117 people were being treated at hospitals.

Firefighters outside Kiss club in Brazil following a fire (Globo TV)

Witnesses said that a flare or firework lit by band members may have started the fire. Up to 2000 people were inside the club and began running for the club's single exit trapping hundreds.

Dr. Paulo Afonso Beltrame, a professor at the medical school of the Federal University of Santa Maria said he was told the club was filled far past its capacity during a party for students at the university's department of agronomy. The event featured a group called Gurizada Fandangueira, which plays a driving mixture of local Brazilian country music styles. It was not immediately clear if the band members were among the victims.

Santa Maria Mayor Cezar Schirmer decreed a 30-day mourning period due to the nightclub disaster and Tarso Genro, the governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, said that all possible action was being taken.

Television images showed smoke pouring out of the Kiss nightclub as shirtless, young male partygoers joined firefighters in wielding axes and sledgehammers, pounding at windows and walls to break through to those trapped inside. Teenagers sprinted from the scene desperately trying to find help — others carried injured and burned friends away in their arms.

"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.

Sandro Meinerz, spokesman for the police in the city of Santa Maria, tells local media that the fire broke out at the Kiss club while a band was performing at the club during a pyrotechnics display.

Survivor Michele Pereira 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.

Civil Police and regional government spokesman Marcelo Arigoni told Radio Gaucha earlier that the total number of victims is still unclear and there may be hundreds injured.

Police tell CNN  that the cause of death for most has been smoke inhalation and were found in the club's bathroom.

Police Maj. Cleberson Braida  says the bodies have been brought to a gymnasium in the city of Santa Maria.

CNN reports The Kiss nightclub attracts upwards of 3000 nightly on the weekends.

Police said the cause of the fire is not yet known.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.