Argentina searches for missing after building blast
ROSARIO, Argentina - Argentine authorities on Wednesday, August 7, combed through the charred ruins of an apartment building destroyed by an explosion and fire that left at least 10 people dead.
Another 62 people were injured and 13 are missing after Tuesday's (August 6) thunderous blast caused by a gas leak in the building in Rosario, the country's third largest city, said Santa Fe province's health minister Miguel Cappiello.
Of 26 injured people who are still hospitalized, 3 are in serious condition, including a boy aged 3 or 4, he added.
The building consisted of 3 towers housing 60 apartments, many inhabited by students or young people because the rent is cheap.
Rescue efforts went on through the night and continued Wednesday.
Crews asked people to keep silent as they gingerly sifted through the remains of the building, listening for any sign of life.
A gas company worker named Carlos Garcia and an assistant, who were working in the building shortly before the blast, have been taken into custody, Garcia's lawyer Hugo Bufarini said.
"He did not tell me what happened because he cannot talk as he is so upset and in a state of shock. But it seems he is the scapegoat," Bufarini said.
He said Garcia has 20 years of experience working with gas.
A building superintendent told the Todas Noticias news network that Garcia and the assistant had been changing a regulator "but he made some kind of mistake, and got in his truck and left."
"I didn't have time to save lives, to warn that this was about to explode," said the man, who was identified only by his first name, Pedro.
Litoral Gas, which is controlled by GDF-Suez and operates the gas network in Santa Fe, said it had not been informed of any work being done at the building on Tuesday before the explosion.
"Before the explosion there was no complaint or call to notify of a situation at risk. We do not know what happened yesterday," a spokesman for the company, Jose Maria Gonzalez, told AFP.
The Argentine government decreed 2 days of national mourning, and ordered flags flown at half mast.
President Cristina Kirchner traveled to Rosario to tour the site of the disaster.
Argentine-born Pope Francis sent a message of condolences to the families of the victims, the Catholic Church said.
Family members of the missing gathered in small clusters near the scene of the disaster.
Shattered glass, a window frame hanging from a tree, clothes dangling from tree limbs and telephone and electric cables were visible reminders of the power of the blast.
"Our concern and our work is focused on the search for persons," Marcos Escajadillo, the province's security secretary, told a news conference.
He said firefighters were searching for survivors in a basement area of the building, picking through rubble with the help of rescue dogs.
Mario Paiva, a taxi driver who helped pull four people from the rubble immediately after the explosion, recalled rushing to the scene on Tuesday.
"All you could hear were the desperate screams of trapped people calling for help," he told AFP.
He said he climbed over a wall and clambered to the top of a mountain of rubble, guided by the sound of people screaming.
He managed to rescue from the rubble a mother and her child, a pregnant woman and elderly grandmother. - Rappler.com