CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Flames quickly engulfed a tiny, downtown nightclub packed with hundreds of dancers but lacking emergency exits, triggering a panicky stampede and killing 47 people early yesterday, fire officials and victims said.

Twelve people were injured in the late Saturday night blaze at La Guajira discotheque.

Faulty wiring, a kitchen fire or even a carelessly discarded cigarette were all possible causes of the blaze, which erupted near the club’s entrance just before midnight yesterday local time, said Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno. Nearly all the dead succumbed to the smoke.

As many as 400 people were inside the discotheque, housed in the basement of the Hotel Venezuela in a densely packed commercial district, when someone yelled “Fire!,” victims said.

The club was in two rooms with a total of about 1,000 square feet.

“The fire began at the entrance. At first we thought it was a joke, but it seems the fire extinguishers didn’t work and the blaze grew fast,” said Jenny Cisneros who suffered burns to her arms and legs.

“Everything went up in flames. There were so many people, everyone was trampled as they tried to get out. Nobody could breathe,” Cisneros told The Associated Press from her hospital bed.

Her sister, who also suffered leg burns, was next to her at the western Caracas clinic. Jenny Cisneros said tearfully that a girlfriend of hers was among the 17 women who died.

Firefighters using oxygen tanks rescued people trapped inside the club and extinguished the flames early yesterday.

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