Rescuers searching for survivors in Rio collapse

January 27, 2012 - 12:35 PM
Brazil Building Collapse

Firefighters retrieve the body of a victim at the site of a building that collapsed in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The building collapsed on Jan. 25. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rescue workers feverishly dug through the wreckage of three destroyed buildings in downtown Rio on Friday, hunting for survivors in the collapse that killed at least seven people and left at least 15 missing.

The families of those trapped spent the night in a nearby government building, holding out increasingly slim hopes more than 40 hours after the office buildings came roaring down at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

So far, seven bodies have been pulled from the heap of brick, glass and metal, according tot he city morgue and police. At least 15 other people are missing.

Authorities suspect illegal construction projects in the largest of the buildings created structural damage that led to its the fall, which in turn brought down neighboring buildings. The cause, though, remained under investigation.

The office buildings in Rio's historic center housed businesses ranging from accounting companies to dentists and doctors. Most tenants were gone by 8:30 Wednesday, but some remained to finish a little leftover work. Several of the missing were in a computing course.

The head of Rio state's Civil Defense agency says the hunt for survivors will continue for another 48 hours.