Military helicopters douse fire in Venezuelan skyscraper
October 17, 2004
CARACAS, Venezuela – Military helicopters doused one of Venezuela’s tallest buildings with water Sunday, bringing under control a blaze that many feared would cause the tower to collapse, officials said.
Two floors and some staircases in the building collapsed. But by Sunday afternoon, the temperature inside the burning building had dropped, lessening the danger of a collapse, Caracas fire chief Rodolfo Briceno said.
“Engineers have gone up there and inspected” the building, Briceno said, adding that “it is very solid.”
Neighbors of the 56-story, 730-foot office tower were allowed to return to their residential buildings in downtown Caracas’ Parque Central complex Sunday afternoon, but firefighters were expected to continue working through the night to extinguish the last flames and keep them from spreading.
The blaze began before midnight Saturday on the 34th floor of the East Tower in the complex, Briceno said. By Sunday afternoon, it had spread over 26 floors, reaching the roof. The complex was built in 1976 and is considered a Caracas landmark.
The building was empty when the fire broke out, but 40 firefighters were injured when they inhaled poisonous gases, fire officials said.
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Their condition was not immediately known and Briceno did not say what might have caused the fire.