A Kiwi trapped in a nightclub shooting was forced to dive for cover as a gunman opened fire on revellers and security staff at a nightclub in Mexico.

Paraparaumu man Tyler Klee has described chaotic scenes as people fled for their lives at a packed music festival in Playa Del Carmen.

At least five people were killed and 15 injured in the rampage believed to be over a drug-related matter.

Klee told New Zealand Herald Focus he was just 20m away when the shooting started.

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"Everyone thought it was just fireworks going off and then everyone started to panic and go into a mad rush.

"It was chaos. There was a lots of gunshots around and we didn't know exactly where they were coming from but we knew we had to get home."

He said people began fleeing the nightclub to escape the carnage.

"Everyone was just pouring out. We heard more gunshots and we ran into a nearby restaurant. Everyone was terrified."

He said when the gunfire died down he made a break for it and ran for his life.

He described the nightclub as chaotic when shots rang out.

"Inside it was carnage. One was was crushed to death and people were climbing over each other and everyone was horrified," he said.

People were in tears on the streets outside and nobody knew what was going on.

He understood the attack started at the door when the gunman was confronted by security guards at the club's entrance.

Meanwhile his mother Susan Klee was stunned to learn her 28-year-old son Tyler was near the packed club when the night out ended in a bloodbath.

She said her shaken son phoned late last night to reassure his family he had survived and was unharmed but incredibly rattled by the shooting, which killed five people.

Tyler, who was in Mexico on a summer break travelling South America, was trapped outside the front of the venue with his friends and had nowhere to go.

"He heard the gunshots and thought at first it was fireworks.

"They were right at the front and couldn't get out.

"They ducked down against the wall once they realised what was happening."

Susan Klee said her son described scenes of pandemonium inside the club. One woman was trampled to death.

"It was hectic.

"People were panicking and everybody was running."

She said he waited until he could escape and now was recovering back at his hostel.

He had spent a sleepless night knowing he and his friends had had a close shave with death.

Tyler Klee told reporters he immediately ran away from the nightclub.

"I was thinking it was the same thing that happened in Paris, some guy just walking in and shooting people at a restaurant, bang bang bang, a terrorist attack," said Klee.

"Everyone ran, everyone was terrified, looking for their friends. We were running away and then you hear more shots fired, like you don't know if you're going to shot in the back or not."

His friend Ben Forbes, from Australia, said "it happened pretty quickly. You still didn't know where they were, how many there were."

Susan Klee said she told her son it was time to come home.

Tyler, who is working in London, only just arrived in the resort town and intended to stay there before heading to Belize to continue his tour of the continent.

He had just left Antigua where he had climbed a volcano that had claimed the lives of seven people the previous day.

His mum was relieved he had come through the shocking massacre unharmed but wondered how long his luck would last.

"I said it's time to come home."

Quintana Roo state Attorney General Miguel Angel Pech ruled out a terror attack, but said the shooting erupted when festival security personnel tried to stop a man from entering the Blue Parrot club with a gun.

In this photo released by Por Esto de Quintana Roo, people react after a shooting at the outdoor venue Blue Parrot nightclub in the Caribbean coast resort of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Photo / AP
In this photo released by Por Esto de Quintana Roo, people react after a shooting at the outdoor venue Blue Parrot nightclub in the Caribbean coast resort of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Photo / AP

Three of those killed were part of the security detail at the 10-day BPM electronic music festival, Pech said. State officials said the dead included two Canadians, an Italian and a Colombian. The gunman apparently fled.

The shots set off a rush for the exits that accounted for at least some of the injuries. The lone female victim was apparently killed during the stampede. Rescue workers tended to bloodied survivors and Pech said 15 people were injured, included a Mexican woman who was seriously injured.

Pech said eight of the injured, including two US citizens, had been treated for less serious injuries at hospitals and released. Canada's Global Affairs office confirmed at least one Canadian died and said it was investigating the other reported fatality. At least two Canadians were injured.

Italy's Foreign Ministry confirmed one of its citizens died.

The attorney general said a lone gunman apparently tried to enter the nightclub about 2.30am but was denied access because he had a gun.

The gunman began to exchange fire with another person inside, he said, and festival security personnel who tried to stop the shooting came under fire. He said 20 bullet casings from three pistols had been found at the scene, and said it was unclear if the security detail had been armed or fired any of the weapons.

Pech said the gunman apparently escaped, though three people had been detained nearby. It was not known if they had been involved in the shooting.

"We know of another shooting that occurred near the nightclub, but we are investigating whether that is related to the nightclub shootings," Pech said.

The government of the township that includes Playa de Carmen referred to "attackers who fired shots", but did not provide further details.

Rodolfo Del Angel, director of police in Quintana Roo, told the Milenio TV station that the shooting was the result of "a disagreement between people inside" the nightclub and said security guards had come under fire when they tried to contain the dispute.

Playa del Carmen has largely been spared the violence that has hit other parts of Mexico.

- addtional reporting AP