'We are extremely lucky we did not have a tragedy'
UPDATE: POLICE on the Gold Coast say it was only the quick work of colleagues and security officers that prevented deaths after a blaze broke out in the nightclub precinct.
Surfers Paradise police inspector Mat Rosevear said the roof of Shooters nightclub had partially collapsed and it was very lucky no-one was killed or seriously injured.
"If it was not for the quick work of security and police on the scene we could have been looking at a Coroner's court instead,'' he told media.
"We are extremely lucky we did not have a tragedy.''
More than 1000 people had to be evacuated from Shooters nightclub and another 500 people from the surrounding area.
Insp. Rosevear said there was no initial panic because most patrons were not aware of the fire.
The fire sent a thick pall of smoke over the city, forcing firefighters to evacuate neighbouring high-rise apartment buildings, as well as a number of nightclubs on Orchid and Cavill avenues.
A woman with breathing difficulties and a firefighter suffering heat stress were taken to hospital, the Department of Community Safety said.
Brisbanetimes.com.au reported that Courtney Fraser, who was working in a nearby cafe, said the precinct was busy at the time.
''I was just told that Shooters caught fire and that everyone was evacuated and it was at high capacity,'' she told 612 ABC Brisbane.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service area commander Todd Murray said the fire, which damaged three floors of the building, was difficult to contain.
''It was an electrical fire in a major transformer switchboard room,'' he said.
Police said they were called around 12.25am on Tuesday morning following reports of a fire alarm activation in a building on Orchid Avenue.
Seven minutes later they declared an Emergency Situation under the Public Safety Preservation Act at Surfers Paradise.
The declaration covered parts of Orchid and Cavill Avenue.
Police are this morning continuing to advise the public and motorists to avoid the area.
Several buildings have been evacuated.
Occupants in neighbouring apartments are urged to close windows and doors due to smoke hazards.
The Nine Network reported that about 80 schoolies were evacuated from one building.
News Ltd reported that a group of people were trapped in an elevator after an electrical switchboard caught fire in Top of the Mark apartment building.
The Mark hotel, with the nightclub Shooters on Orchid Avenue, was evacuated,
The elevator company was called in to help free guests, News reported.
Gold Coast revellers took to Twitter and Facebook to record the drama.
"Fire at shooters! Well that made work a tad different! Hope everyone in the area is okay and wasn't too badly affect (sic) from the smoke," Gabriella Raiti posted.
"Holy crap surfers is going crazy tonight. Shooters got on fire, flippin fire alarms going off left right and centre. Got to love schoolies,'' Theo Gregory posted on Twitter.