Fire hits Flamengo Training Center Killing At Least 10 People

Training center is used by the base categories of the soccer club

Lucas Vettorazzo
Rio de Janeiro

A fire struck the training center at one of Rio de Janeiro's most famous soccer clubs, Flamengo, killing ten people and injuring another three.

Among the victims are club employees and the so-called base players, teenagers who are trained so eventually they can try out for Flamengo's main squad. The Fire Department was called at 5:17 am to contain the flames that started at an older part of the training center, used as housing to younger players, age 14 to 17 years old. Around 40 minutes later, the fire was under control.

Jonathan Cruz Ventura, 15, is one of the most seriously injured victims, with 30% of his body covered with third-degree burns.

Rio's deputy governor Cláudio Castro was at Ninho do Urubu (Vulture's Nest, as the training center, is locally called) on Friday morning. Castro told reporters that right now it seems that a defect in the air-conditioning system caused the fire.

Jefferson Rodrigues da Silva, an owner of a boarding house near the training center that houses young players looking to be discovered by Flamengo, was looking for information about one of his charges, Caique, a 15-year-old from the state of Tocantins. According to him, the boy was well, but very shaken.

Silva said the young man described that the fire happened very fast. "When he realized what was happening, he had no time to gather his belongings, because the flames were spreading fast."

Samuel Barbosa, 16, was in the room where the fire began. According to his stepmother Marcia Santos, only a few of the young men managed to escape. Barbosa's family came from Piauí two years ago so Samuel could be coached at the club.

Ninho do Urubu only receives athletes from out of state. Samuel lived in the training center, while his family stayed at a house nearby. His stepmother said that the boy is in a state of shock and has not yet been able to describe what happened.

"He just said he got away because he left everything behind, and his colleague who was sleeping didn't make it. He's distraught," she said.

Flamengo's training center is located in the neighborhood of Vargem Grande, in the western part of Rio de Janeiro, and both the professional and amateur teams use it.

The site underwent renovations in November, and a new wing for the pro squad was recently opened. The area struck by fire was to be demolished soon.

Flamengo's main squad was supposed to have a training session at Ninho do Urubu on Friday morning, to prepare for a classic game against local rival Fluminense.

The Football Federation of Rio de Janeiro posted on Twitter that the semi-finals of the Guanabara Cup, which would be played this weekend, will be postponed.

Translated by Natasha Madov