1 dead, others trapped after 7-story building collapses in Brazil

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – A seven-story building collapsed Tuesday in an upscale part of the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, killing one person and leaving others trapped with some communicating with family members by cellphone from under debris, officials said.

Fire department commander Cleyton Bezerra said nine people were missing, though it was unclear if they were under the rubble or just unreachable by relatives and friends. Ten survivors have been found along with an unidentified body.

“It is a difficult situation; there are parts (of the building) that can still collapse,” said Bezerra, who led the rescue operation.

Authorities in the city of 2.6 million inhabitants in Brazil’s northeast said two trapped people were communicating with relatives and rescuers by phone. Rescuers urged people at the site to be silent to allow them to hear noises in the rubble.

“For now we are trying to hear sounds that indicate where people are. There are several layers of debris,” fire department spokesman Romario Fernandes said. He said the rescue operation is expected to last days.

Witnesses said they saw people in the building shortly before it collapsed.

Daiane Moreira was working next to the building when it collapsed.

“I just heard a boom, and the building came down at once. A man came out drenched in blood and with a broken arm; he was the only one we could help,” Moreira told journalists at the scene, as relatives and friends of building residents wept and waited for information.

Francineudo Rodrigues criticized the maintenance of the building where his father Francisco has worked as a doorman for eight years.

“I’ve seen cracks in columns; I’ve seen many problems that were not solved since I started coming here,” Rodrigues told journalists.

Rodrigues, who also does jobs at the building, said his father is alive at a local hospital.

“Nothing ever changed in this building. It is the same as what I saw when my father started working here,” he said.

Fortaleza Mayor Roberto Claudio said it was not immediately clear what caused the building to collapse. He promised a “rigorous investigation.”

“The only information we have is that it was an old building. We don’t have specific information on licenses, permissions,” Claudio said.

The building is located in central Fortaleza about 2 miles south of the Iracema beach, one of the city’s top tourist spots.

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