A fire in an overcrowded Caracas nightclub killed 47 people and injured 12. The city fire chief said today that blocked emergency exits may have trapped the victims in the basement discotheque.

As many as 400 people were packed inside the tiny La Guajira nightclub when the fire erupted just before midnight Saturday. There were too few exits, and nearly all the dead succumbed to smoke, said Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno.

"We have information that the flames spread quickly in the small building, the escape routes were blocked, contributing to the magnitude of the disaster," Briceno said.

"There were more people in the club than its capacity could hold. There were 300 or 400 people there when we arrived, and a lot of thick, dense toxic smoke," he added.

"The problem is that nightclubs must have enough exits, which isn't always observed," Briceno said. He did not say how many emergency exits the charred building had -- if any.

Firefighters evacuated about 500 people from surrounding buildings.

The discotheque was in the basement of the Hotel Venezuela building. Briceno said faulty wiring may have started the blaze.

"The fire started at the entrance," said Jenny Cisneros, 29, who was burned on her legs and arms. "We didn't think it was anything serious, but the fire extinguishers didn't work and the fire spread quickly."

Venezuelan police and firefighters examine the scene after a fire in a nightclub killed 47 people late Saturday night. The fire chief said some emergency exits were blocked in the small basement discotheque.