Ten people killed in fire at Brazilian soccer club
Six of Flamengo’s youth side reportedly among those killed in fire at training club
A fire engine in front of the Flamengo training ground in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Ricardo Morae/Reuters
People wait for information in front of the training centre of Rio soccer club Flamengo. Photograph: Ricardo Morae/Reuters
Fire swept through an unlicensed lodging at the training centre of Rio de Janeiro soccer club Flamengo on Friday, killing 10 people, including several members of the club’s youth team, firefighters and news reports said.
Six of those killed were reported to be youth players, and another three boys aged between 14 and 15 were injured in the blaze. All three were taken to a hospital, one of them reportedly in serious condition.
The Rio de Janeiro mayor’s office said the dormitory destroyed by the blaze was built on land that was not registered for buildings and that the club had no permission to erect lodgings there.
“On the project protocol the area is described as a parking lot,” the office said in a statement. “There is no register of a new request for a licence to use the area as a dormitory.”
Firefighters said they arrived at the Ninho do Urubu, a state-of-the-art training centre that was expanded and opened only two months ago, shortly after 5am (7am Irish time) to find the building engulfed in flames.
News reports said the fire happened in one of the older parts of the centre that was due to be torn down. It was not known whether smoke alarms were installed in the building, which had a metal roof that appeared bent and charred by the blaze.
Some people had managed to escape the burning building, but the ferocity of the fire prevented firefighters from entering the facility.
“We managed to rescue the victims that were outside,” fire service Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Henaut told reporters. “The place was completely overtaken by fire. As much as we tried to get inside and find people still alive that wasn’t [possible] . . . We only found bodies inside.”
“We can’t tell you the cause of the fire, that needs to be investigated,” he added.
Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim called it “the biggest tragedy in Flamengo’s 123-year history” but gave no details about the players involved.
One young player, however, told reporters the fire started in his room.
“The air conditioner caught fire, and I ran out,” said Felipe Cardoso, a midfielder with the under-17 side. “Thank God I managed to run and I’m still alive.”
Although O Globo newspaper identified at least six of the dead as youth players, the only one named by a club official was Christian Esmerio, a 15-year-old goalkeeper.
“I had the pleasure of knowing you, unfortunately an accident interrupted your dream,” Gabriel Batista, a senior goalkeeper at the club, wrote on Instagram.
The complex on the edge of the city was blocked off to the press, with dozens of reporters and TV crews waiting outside its gates. Fans also gathered to wait for news.
“I’m very sad,” said 16-year old Augusto Mateus, who turned up wearing a red Flamengo shirt. “There were lots of brilliant talents who had exciting futures ahead of them.”
It is common for Brazilian clubs to host young players in dormitories while they are training with youth teams or at the club for trials, especially those from poor backgrounds or from outside the city.
However, many of the lodgings have a reputation for poor health and hygiene standards. In recent years, major clubs such as Vasco da Gama, Botafogo and Parana have hit the headlines due to the precarious conditions of their training centres.
After years of financial difficulties, Flamengo last year spent 23 million reais (€5.5 million) to expand the Ninho do Urubu training ground, which was being used both by the first team and youth squads.
In addition to accommodation for young players, the facilities include several pitches, an aquatic park, a gym, a medical centre and a mini-stadium.
The Ninho do Urubu, or Vulture’s Nest, gets its name from the club’s symbol – a vulture.
Several of the club’s best-known young talents trained there, including midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who made his debut for AC Milan in January, and Vinicius Junior, who joined Real Madrid last year.
“What sad News! Praying for everyone! Strength, strength, strength,” Junior wrote on Twitter.
The fire follows days of heavy rains that hit the city and claimed at least six lives, leading Flamengo to close parts of its social club and cancel regular training sessions it organises for children. – Reuters