RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio de Janeiro's world-famed Carnival went up in flames Monday for thousands of people who spent nearly a year preparing for the spectacular event.
Seamstresses, set designers and musicians watched in tears as firefighters struggled to control a blaze that raged through warehouses holding many of the elaborate costumes and floats they had assembled for this year's samba parade.
With just a month left before the March 6 start of the competition, there is no way to fully replace them.
"Do you know what it feels like to work all day, into the night, to make this happen, and then this?" asked Graziela Goncalves Carvalho, a seamstress with Uniao da Ilha do Governador, one of the groups that appeared to have suffered heavy losses. "It's over. There's nothing. This Carnival is over for us."
Three hours after the fire, 120 firefighters had controlled the flames that appeared to have severely damaged warehouses belonging to three of the samba organizations that compete in the two-day parade, as well as Independent League of Samba Groups that organizes the event, according to Dimas de Almeida Neto, spokesman for Rio's fire department.
The cause was being investigated, he said.
There were no initial reports of serious injuries or deaths, although some workers were in the warehouses when the fire started just before 7 a.m. The municipal health department confirmed one 30-year-old man was admitted to a downtown hospital after inhaling smoke, but is recovering.
Even before the flames were out, it was clear that four of the four-story warehouses were extensively damaged, with two of them collapsing internally, according to firefighters. Ten warehouses were not affected by the flames.