By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A gas leak is said to be the most likely cause for the explosion which shook awake residents of Rio de Janeiro’s São Conrado neighborhood early Monday morning, May 18th. According to authorities the explosion, which occurred on the tenth floor of the nineteen-floor apartment building, blew out many of the windows of the building, as well as those of buildings around it.
Despite the pieces of concrete blocks and twisted steel that littered the street below, there were no fatal victims. Five residents got injured and were taken to area hospitals, including the 51-year-old man said to be residing in the apartment where the explosion originated.
Building residents were allowed to go into their apartments during the afternoon for a few minutes to retrieve documents and a change of clothes before police cordoned the area off again.
City officials say that although it is unlikely that major structural damage to the building occurred, the city’s Civil Defense has not yet announced when residents will be allowed to move back in. The São Conrado neighborhood is an area between Leblon and Barra da Tijuca with a spectacular view of the ocean and very popular with hang-gliders.
“There seems to be no structural risk,” Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, was quoted as saying at the scene, “but we need to assess the situation very carefully [as to when residents may return]. The priority now is the safety of the residents,” he added.
Although not common, there have been a few major building accidents in Rio in the past five years. In 2012 three buildings collapsed in downtown Rio, killing five people. The accident was blamed on the unauthorized construction of an extra floor in one of the buildings.
In October 2011 a restaurant exploded in the center of Rio, killing three people. A gas leak and poor maintenance were blamed for the fatal blast.