By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A number of people have been injured after two high-rise buildings – one twenty floors high – collapsed following an explosion, allegedly caused by a gas leak, late last night in the downtown area of Rio de Janeiro. A smaller building – under construction – also collapsed.
Emergency teams scrambling through the debris have already picked survivors from the remains of the buildings, while others are thought to remain trapped inside.
Confusion remains over whether any fatalities occurred in the incident, and a list of those possibly missing has been drawn up to help rescuers.
The two larger buildings which collapsed are the twenty-story Edifício Liberdade on Avenida Treze de Maio, and the ten-story Edifício Colombo on Rua Manoel de Carvalho.
Rio City Mayor Eduardo Paes said rescue efforts were the primary concern, before looking into the cause of the incident, but there are several reports that an explosion due a gas leak led to the buildings collapsing.
Police feared that other neighboring buildings could also have suffered structural damage after reports they were hit when the buildings came down, including the Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theater) and the headquarters of oil giant Petrobras.
“The whole building collapsed as if it had imploded. It was like the World Trade Center. I heard an enormous bang and saw it all happen,” eyewitness Luiz Antônio Jean Trajan told O Globo newspaper.
Officers were preventing members of the public from approaching the site, including friends and relatives desperate to get news about their loved-ones.
The area’s power supply has been switched off for safety reasons.
The incident comes after a restaurant exploded last October in downtown Rio, killing three people. A gas leak and poor maintenance were blamed for the fatal blast.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Update is a new feature we are offering to help keep you up-to-date with major news as it happens.