Firefighters search for victims between the debris of a collapsed building in Rio das Pedras slum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
June 3, 2021
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A residential building in a working class part of Rio de Janeiro collapsed on Thursday, killing at least two people and underlining the precarious state of many structures in parts of the city where authorities say organized crime is heavily involved in construction.
Local residents told Reuters they heard a booming noise that was followed by a fire, causing panic in the western neighborhood of Rio das Pedras.
More than 100 firefighters and other public safety workers rushed to the scene. A man, a woman and a child were buried, authorities said.
According to a public safety source, who requested anonymity as he was not permitted to speak to media, only the woman survived.
"Unfortunately, we lost the other two."
Rio das Pedras is the birthplace of Rio de Janeiro's so-called "militias," and it remains firmly in the grasp of the organized crime groups. While originally created to defend inhabitants from drug gangs, militias now act as crime outfits in their own right.
These groups have grown in power in the last two decades, operating increasingly complex, profitable and deadly rackets throughout the city. Among their money-making operations, they build residential structures without official permission or approval, and rent the buildings out, sometimes to disastrous consequences.
The building that collapsed on Thursday was not approved by authorities, sources involved in the rescue said.
In 2019, a militia-constructed building in the adjacent neighborhood of Itanhanga collapsed, killing two.