LATEST: 'Multiple dead' inside Orlando nightclub

Blood-covered victims outside the club.
Blood-covered victims outside the club.

Police in Orlando have said a number of people have died in a shooting at a nightclub in the city in the early hours of this morning.

Speaking at a press conference, Orlando Police Chief Mina said the shooter is also dead.

He said a police officer working inside the club responded to shots fired at around 2am local time and engaged in a gun battle with a gunman.

He said a hostage situation then ensued before a decision was made around three hours later to rescue the hostages. The gunman was armed with an assault rife and a handgun and had "some type of device on him".

One man who said he was inside the club posted on social media that the shooting broke out around 2am local time and that he heard about 40 shots being fired.

Javer Antonetti, 53, told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper that he was near the back of the dance club when he heard the gunfire.

"There were so many (shots), at least 40," he said. "I saw two guys and it was constant, like 'pow, pow, pow'."

"There are injuries. I am not sure if there are any deceased at this time," a police dispatcher told AFP.

Police described the situation as an "active shooting"

On its Twitter page, Pulse describes itself as Orlando's premiere gay ultra lounge, nightclub and bar.

The club later updated its Facebook page thanking people for their "thoughts and love" and saying "please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event".

Local media reported that a number of people, ranging from seven to as many as 20, had been shot.