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Deadly Fires Stun Rio: A Boys Soccer Dorm, a Storied Museum, and Now a Hospital


At least 11 patients, including several elderly people, were killed in a fire that engulfed a private hospital in Rio de Janeiro, officials said Friday.

The fire at Badim Hospital in northern Rio de Janeiro, which was caring for 103 patients, began around 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The suspected cause was a generator that short-circuited, according to investigators.

As the flames spread, hospital staff and neighbors worked frantically to evacuate the building. Scores of patients who made it out were placed on mattresses laid on the street as officials and relatives arranged to take them to other medical facilities.

The blaze was the latest in a series of fires in Rio de Janeiro that have raised questions about faulty wiring and other hazardous conditions in buildings in the city.

In January, 10 teenagers died after a fire consumed the dormitory of a soccer training center run by a popular sports league. Last September, Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro burned to the ground, destroying a vast collection of historical records and artifacts at the 200-year-old building.

Investigators found clear signs of negligence in both of those cases.

Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, said the hospital building had been in compliance with all fire regulations and that an investigation had been launched to determine if anyone was at fault.

“Unfortunately accidents happen anywhere,” he told reporters. “The building had all the equipment” required by law.

But some relatives of patients who died in the blaze were furious.

“My mother was assassinated,” Emanoel Santos Melo, 61, told the O Globo newspaper, describing scenes of panic that followed a power outage and explosion at the hospital, where he had been visiting his 88-year-old mother, Luiza Santos Melo. “Was she 88? Yes. Was she likely to die? Yes. But not in this manner.”

Mr. Santos said that about 20 minutes after the hospital lost power, people in the building heard a loud bang and smelled diesel fuel. As flames spread through the building, he found a hospital mask for his mother and wrapped his shirt around her face to shield her from the smoke.

Following a confrontation with firefighters, he was separated from her, he said, and shortly after 3 a.m. Friday, Mr. Santos was told she was among the dead.


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