BUCHAREST • Romania's President has said that safety rules may have been ignored at an underground nightclub where a fire and stampede left 27 people dead and nearly 200 injured.
Survivors spoke of the horror that unfolded when fireworks - set off during a pre-Halloween gig by a heavy metal band - unleashed a blaze at the Colectiv club in Bucharest late last Friday, followed by a stampede as terrified clubbers sought the exit.
President Klaus Iohannis pointed to safety failings at the nightclub, where witnesses said up to 400 youngsters had gathered for a performance by rock group Goodbye to Gravity.
"I am saddened, but also revolted that a tragedy of this scale could have taken place in Bucharest," Mr Iohannis said.
"It is unimaginable that there could have been so many people in such a (small) space, and that the tragedy happened so quickly because simple rules were ignored," he added after visiting the scene.
"We already have indications that the legal regulations had not been respected. I hope that the authorities manage their inquiry with speed and rigour."
Investigators have begun gathering evidence from the scene and will interview witnesses, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office told Agence France-Presse.
Twenty-six people perished at the club and one died in hospital, the Secretary of State for the Interior, Dr Raed Arafat, said after a meeting of a national emergency committee.
Nearly 200 people, including several foreigners, were injured. Medical sources said 10 were in critical condition. Witnesses described nightmarish scenes when fireworks, let off as part of a show to promote the band's new album, set fire to a pillar and part of the ceiling.
The crowd panicked as thick smoke engulfed the room, prompting people to scramble to escape from the club, located in a communist-era basement. There were reports that only one of two exits to the nightclub was open.
Fireworks and restricted exits have been a lethal combination in many nightclub fires around the world. In one of the worst such disasters, 156 clubbers in the Russian city of Perm died in 2009 in a blaze caused by pyrotechnics, and 83 were injured.
Seven people were jailed for up to nine years after the tragedy.