By Ana Maria Pomi –
RIO DE JANEIRO _ Brazil’s base in Antarctica, Comandante Ferraz Station, was destroyed Saturday by a fire that injured one military member and left two missing, Brazilian authorities said.
“The 30 researchers, the climber, the representative of the environment minister and the 12 officials of the Rio de Janeiro Navy Arsenal, along with the injured sailor … were transferred to Punta Arenas in Chile,” the Brazilian Navy said.
Two military members remained missing, the statement said.
According to media reports, the two missing were presumed dead. Unnamed sources told Folha de Sao Paulo that they could not escape the flames fast enough. Neither the Navy nor the Defense Ministry confirmed the deaths.
The injured sailor’s injuries were not life-threatening, the Navy said.
The Brazilian Navy said it was “extremely dismayed” by the accident at the base, which has been active since 1984. The station is on King George Island in Admiralty Bay, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the Antarctic Peninsula.
The fire started in the machinery room, which holds the base’s generators, and was yet to be put out, the Navy said.
The head of the base and several officers remained on site to put out the fire with the assistance of personnel of Argentine, Polish and Chilean bases.
“The Brazilian station in Antarctica is over,” the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo quoted a military source as saying, without giving names.
Yocie Yoneshigue Valentin, who coordinates the National Institute of Science and Technology’s Antarctic division, said the damage was “incalculable.”
“The news fills all Brazil with dismay,” said the scientist, quoted in the online edition of the daily Folhe de Sao Paulo.
Several researchers from the institute, with ties to the University of Rio de Janeiro, were rescued unhurt after a blast followed by a fire.