Firefighters try to find victims amid the debris of two buildings that collapsed in Muzema neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, April 12, 2019. The collapse came in a western part of the city that was particularly hard hit by heavy rains this week that caused massive flooding. (Jose Lucena/Futura Press via AP)

Collapse of buildings in Rio kills 2 in militia-run area

April 12, 2019 - 10:54 am

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Firefighters on Friday dug through rubble in search of survivors after two small buildings collapsed in Rio de Janeiro, killing at least two people and leaving another two injured.

The collapse of the two four-story buildings underscored the shoddy infrastructure that plagues Latin America's largest nation and put a spotlight on illegal militias that control large swaths of Rio, including the area where the buildings collapsed.

A statement from the office of Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella said the area was run by militias and the buildings did not have permits. Authorities were only able to reach the area while being accompanied by police in November, when they condemned the buildings, according to the statement.

Militias, made up of former firefighters, police and soldiers, charge residents for basic services in areas they control.

The incident took place in a part of the city that also was particularly hard hit by heavy rains this week that caused massive flooding and killed at least 10 people. Mud from the flooding still lined the streets near where the buildings collapsed.

A spokesman for firefighters told The Associated Press that two bodies had been recovered from the collapsed buildings and the area was being cordoned off to search. In keeping with agency protocol, the spokesman asked his name not be used.

It wasn't immediately clear how many people were inside when the buildings collapsed.

Collapsing structures are common in Brazil, which suffers from poor infrastructure in many areas. Corruption and spotty oversight can exacerbate the problem, as many buildings are constructed illegally.

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