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Caracas Skyscraper
Oct 17, 2004

Fire Ravages Caracas's Parque Central, Region's Tallest Tower
Fire destroyed the top third of the east tower of Venezuela's Parque Central, South America's tallest skyscraper. The Caracas landmark was empty, and the cause of the fire isn't known. At least 15 firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation in the Venezuelan capital, Metropolitan Fire Chief Rodolfo Briceno said in a televised press conference. The fire, which began about 1 a.m., spread from the 34th floor to the top of the 56-story building, Briceno said. The fire didn't affect the shorter West tower or an adjoining apartment center. Briceno said he couldn't rule out that the building might collapse because of the heavy structural damage. `The sprinkler system didn't work. There's no water pressure up there. Military helicopters were ferrying in water to dump on the blaze. Firefighters were evacuated from the tower, and neighboring buildings also were cleared. The building, erected between 1978 and 1984, houses government agencies including the Infrastructure Ministry and the Civil Aviation Agency. The Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art, Latin America's largest collection of modernistic works, is also partially housed in the tower's base. Briceno said it was too early to determine the cause of the blaze.