Dayton Daily News

Fire at soccer academy kills 10, injures three

Victims of tragedy are believed to be teenage athletes.

- By Peter Prengaman and Marcelo Silva de Sousa

Fire tore RIO DE JANEIRO — through the sleeping quarters of an academy for one of Brazil’s most popular profession­al soccer clubs Friday, killing 10 people and injuring three, most likely teenage players, authoritie­s said.

Firefighte­rs were called just after 5 a.m. local time to the sprawling Ninho de Urubu training grounds of the Flamengo soccer club in Rio de Janeiro’s western region. Overhead images captured by an Associated Press drone showed a smoky, charred area of the complex.

“We are distraught,” Flamengo President Rodolfo Landim said outside the complex, where friends, fans and neighbors gathered, some forming a circle to pray. “This is the worst tragedy to happen to the club in its 123 years.”

He did not take questions from reporters who also were outside the complex but added: “The most important thing right now is to minimize the suffering of these families.”

“Flamengo is in mourning,” the team said on its Twitter account.

The cause of the fire was not known.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella ordered three days of mourning, and President Jair Bolsonaro issued a statement lamenting the fire had taken “the young lives at the beginning of pursuing their profession­al dreams.”

Those killed were not immediatel­y identified by the club but they were athletes, said Beatriz Busch, the public health secretary for the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Two of the injured youths were hospitaliz­ed in stable condition and one was in critical condition, she added. The ages of the injured were 14, 15 and 16, according to a fire official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of agency rules.

Several people who appeared to be relatives entered the complex without speaking to reporters. Some were crying.

“These boys suffer so much in pursuing their dreams” of becoming profession­al players, said Caros Eduardo Araujo, a fan who left a bouquet of flowers at the gate of the complex. “I’ve been shaking since I heard the news.”

Samuel Barbosa, 16-yearold who survived the fire, told Globo TV news that a lot of smoke filled the dorm.

“Most didn’t make it because there was so much fire,” Barbosa said.

Jefferson Rodrigues, who runs a small inn near the club, said he had reached a 15-year-old player he had befriended.

“I am very happy. I just spoke to Caix Suarez and he is alive,” said Rodrigues, adding that the youth told him he ran when he saw the flames. “He lost his phone, and all of his things, but the important thing is he is alive.”

Joao Pedro da Cruz, a 16-year-old player in the Flamengo youth league, told the G1 news portal that he decided not to spend the night at the facility because the team wasn’t going to train on Friday, and he went to a friend’s house instead.

“The majority of them (the team) stayed, my friends stayed (at the facility),” he said. “Today I woke up and heard this terrible news.”

Like many profession­al clubs in Brazil, Flamengo has a developmen­t program for promising young players. Many, particular­ly those who live outside of Rio de Janeiro, stay at the facilities while training.

The dream of many youths in Latin America’s largest nation, winner of five World Cup titles, is to make it into the profession­al ranks.

 ?? CARL DE SOUZA/ GETTY IMAGES ?? Grieving relatives arrive at Brazilian soccer club Flamengo’s training center after it caught fire in a neighborho­od west of Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
CARL DE SOUZA/ GETTY IMAGES Grieving relatives arrive at Brazilian soccer club Flamengo’s training center after it caught fire in a neighborho­od west of Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

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