Fire Sweeps Landmark Caracas Office Tower

Military helicopters doused one of Venezuela's tallest buildings with water Sunday, bringing under control a blaze that many feared would cause the 56-story tower to collapse, officials said.


Military helicopters doused one of Venezuela's tallest buildings with water Sunday, bringing under control a blaze that many feared would cause the 56-story tower to collapse, officials said.

Two floors and some staircases in the east tower of the downtown Central Park building collapsed. But by Sunday afternoon the temperature inside had dropped, lessening the danger of a collapse, said Caracas Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno.

''Engineers have gone up there and inspected,'' Briceno said. ``It is very solid.''

Neighbors were allowed to return to their residential buildings late Sunday, but firefighters were working through the night to keep the fire from lower floors.

Forty of the 100 firefighters battling the blaze were injured when they inhaled poisonous gases, fire officials said. The fire started on the 34th floor around midnight Saturday. The building was empty at the time.