At least six people, including five teenagers, have died and about 120 injured in a stampede when panic broke out during a rap concert at a packed nightclub in Italy.
The suspected use of a pepper spray-like substance is thought to have sparked the chaos at the venue in the town of Corinaldo, near Ancona in central Italy, early on Saturday, the fire service said in a statement on Twitter.
Local officials said witnesses reported seeing a hooded man spray a substance like pepper spray or tear gas into the crowd.
However, police spokesman Cristian Carrozza later said they were still “trying to ascertain what had caused the youths to rush out”, adding: “There are three exits and one of these was used.
The victims include three girls and two boys aged between 14 and 16 and a 39-year-old woman who accompanied her daughter to the club.
At least 10 people are in critical condition, according to doctors and local officials, with at least 120 injured in total.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who also serves as interior minister, said there were many more people than permitted inside the club, where popular Italian rapper Sfera Ebbasta had been due to perform.
The exit used led to a small bridge and the car park. The force of the fleeing crowd made a railing collapse and dozens of people fell, crushing those at the bottom of the pile, according to a preliminary investigation.
Grainy mobile phone footage appeared to show part of a walkway collapsing, sending dozens of people tumbling down. Those who remained inside the nightclub were unharmed.
“We were dancing and waiting for the concert to start when we smelt this pungent odour,” a 16-year-old boy who was taken to hospital told local media.
“We ran to one of the emergency exits but we found it blocked, the bouncers told us to go back.”
Giulia Bucci, 18, said those trying to flee started pushing, adding: “It was a domino effect, some fell on me and I fell on others and my legs were squashed.”