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Cameras capture moment buildings collapsed

posted 26 Jan 2012, 13:26 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 26 Jan 2012, 13:27 ]

A security camera captures the moment three buildings collapsed in Rio de Janeiro's downtown district, killing at least three people and leaving 18 others missing.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (JANUARY 25, 2012)  (TV BANDEIRANTES) - A security camera captured the moment when three buildings collapsed in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday (January 25) night, leaving at least three dead, six injured and 18 others missing.

The video from a building across the street showed people running for their lives as a cloud of dust rose quickly, covering the camera's screen in a few seconds.

A few minutes later the dust receded and showed several curious passersby surrounding the area until the police arrived and evacuated the site.

Rescuers on Thursday (January 26) recovered three bodies from the rubble and continued to search for survivors, although hopes of finding survivors have faded.

The buildings, which were 20, 10 and 4 storeys high, were mostly used for office space during the day and were almost empty at the time of the disaster.

Many anxious relatives and friends of missing victims stood near the site and watched closely as the workers and tractors dug through the debris.

A man, who identified himself as Cesar, said he was looking for his brother-in-law who worked inside one of the buildings.

"I've been to Souza Aguiar (hospital) and his name is not there. So I'm here expecting to find him because hope always dies last," he said.

TV Globo network attached a small camera to the helmet of a rescue worker to follow their overnight search efforts. The video showed the rescuers walking over the massive pile of debris as they searched for survivors.

Witnesses said they heard the structures cracking and saw plaster falling before the buildings collapsed, causing panic in the streets and covering parked cars with dust and debris.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said the cause of the collapse could have been a structural failure caused by work being done on one of the buildings. He said there was no gas leak that could have caused an explosion, although some experts say this possibility may not be entirely ruled out.

A man, identified only as Vitor, cried as he tried relentlessly to reach his wife's mobile phone. He said he was speaking to her on a web messenger when the building she worked in collapsed.

"She hadn't left (the building); she didn't say goodbye or anything. Everything happened so quickly. I am desperate and I need to know if she is still there," he said.

Other families also spent the night on the site or outside a nearby hospital waiting for news on their loved ones.

Roberto Flaviano, a 64-year-old man, said he still hoped his wife was alive among the debris.

"I'm hoping that she is trapped somewhere. I don't know, I don't know," he said.

Coronel Pinho, a fire worker who helped in the rescues, said he found a survivor who thought he was still on the sixth floor of the building.

"I heard a man's voice saying he was on the sixth floor and I looked but couldn't find anything. But I was standing on top of him. He touched my ankle and he said 'I'm here on the sixth floor and you are standing on top of me'. Then I told him, 'my friend, you are on the first floor now'," he said.

The incident raises doubts about the creaky infrastructure of the city that will host the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Rio is struggling to address concerns about its decrepit infrastructure, unreliable power supplies and deficient public transportation as it prepares to host global sporting events.