Romania's prime minister has decreed three days of mourning starting immediately for the victims of a nightclub fire and stampede.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta cut short a visit to Mexico to return to Bucharest after a fire broke out late Friday in a nightclub in Bucharest, killing 27 and injuring 180. Officials expect the death toll to rise in what is the worst disaster of its kind ever in Romania.
Some 146 club-goers remained hospitalized across the Romanian capital Saturday morning after hundreds fled in a panic late Friday, trying to get out of the Colectiv club's only exit door from a basement in downtown Bucharest.
Raed Arafat, an emergency situations official, said Saturday that 17 of those who died still have not been identified and he feared that others would die of their injuries.
TV stations posted a number for families to call to find out about the tragedy, the deadliest of its kind in the country's history.
Witnesses told Antena 3 TV that between 300 to 400 mostly young people had been at the club, housed in a former factory, when the metal band Goodbye to Gravity was performing and a pyrotechnical show went awry. They said there was only one exit.
Club-goers told Digi 24 television that a spark on stage ignited some polystyrene decor. Photos posted on social media appeared to show a flame emanating from a pillar covered in foam insulation as those in the audience applauded the band.
Victor Ionescu, who was at the club with his girlfriend, told Antena 3 TV that many panicked.
"People were fainting. They were fainting from the smoke. It was total chaos, people were trampling on each other," he said.
Club-goers, some barely in their teens, suffered burns and smoke inhalation. Parents and friends gathered outside the nightclub for hours as news of the fire spread, searching desperately for their loved ones.
Police spent all night in the club investigating the incident and questioning the club's owners.
The government is meeting later Saturday and is expected to announce three days of mourning.