Death toll rises as hopes fade in Brazil buildings collapse

Story highlights

  • 17 are dead, state media says
  • The three buildings collapsed on Wednesday
  • It is not yet known what caused the collapse

The death toll in the collapse of three buildings in Rio de Janeiro rose to 17 Saturday morning as rescuers found two more bodies, state media reported.

Rescue efforts will continue until Sunday but some were beginning to give up hope.

"Although the culture of the fire department is driven by hope, motivation, given the scenario that we're checking, and time passed since the accident, I must say that we do not work with the possibility of more survivors," said Col. Sergio Simoes, secretary of civil defense, according to the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency

Simoes, who also serves as fire brigade commander, said he was concerned about large chunks of concrete possibly falling on crews.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse of a 20-story building and adjacent 10- and 4-story buildings on Wednesday night. Officials said they were investigating both the possibility of a gas leak and a structural failure.

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Sergio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Among those who died in the collapse was Cornelio Ribeiro Lopes, 73, who was the doorman for one of the buildings, Agencia Brasil reported. He lived there with his wife, Margarida Vieira de Carvalho, who is among the missing, the agency reported.

Rescuers said that one of the biggest challenges in finding people was the dust cloud that floats in the area.

The accident came at a delicate time for Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later.

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