Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station fire

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Coordinates: Maps 62°05′11″S 58°23′36″W / 62.0865°S 58.3932°W / -62.0865; -58.3932

Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station fire
Location King George Island, Antarctica
Date(s) 25 February 2012
Burned area 2,250 square metres (24,200 sq ft)
Ignition source Under investigation (possible short circuit)
Buildings destroyed 1 (main building)
Injuries (non-fatal) 1
Fatalities 2

The Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station fire was a fire at the Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station in Antarctica, on 25 February 2012 that killed 2 people and injured another. The fire destroyed approximately 70% of the research station.

Cause[edit]

The fire broke out in the machine room housing the power generators at approximately 2:00 am (Brasília time) on 25 February 2012.[1] The Brazilian Navy opened an investigation to determine the exact cause of the accident. An initial report by the Ministry of Defense suggests that a short circuit might have triggered the explosion.

International effort[edit]

  •  Chile's Frei Montalva was the first base to receive the distress signal sent by the Brazilian station at 02:40 am (local time). The Chilean Navy activated an emergency plan, sending two boats with firefighting crew to the scene, in addition to equipment and supplies, such as pumps, hoses and extinguishers. The Chilean help arrived at 3:46 am (local time) after sailing for 1 hour. A third ship, tugboat Lautaro, arrived at 05:00 am (local time). At daylight, the Chilean Navy sent two Bolkow helicopters to evacuate the Brazilian personnel back to Frei Montalva base.[2]
  •  Poland's Arctowski Station also sent staff to support the firefighting efforts. Polish medics administered first aid to the Brazilian soldier injured in the fire.[2]
  •  United Kingdom's ice patrol ship HMS Protector received the distress call from Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station and sailed to King George Island to provide assistance to the research station. 23 of her sailors were put ashore with fire-fighting equipment to tackle the large blaze.[4]

Evacuation[edit]

Fifty-nine people were at the station when the fire broke out. Forty-four people (30 scientists, an alpinist, a representative from the Ministry of Environment and 12 soldiers from the Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro) were evacuated by helicopter to the nearby Chilean Eduardo Frei Montalva Station, while 12 Brazilian Navy soldiers stayed at the base trying to fight the blaze.[5]

The evacuees were later embarked in an Argentine Air Force flight to Punta Arenas, Chile.[6] The Brazilian Air Force sent a C-130 Hercules aircraft to pick up the 44 evacuees and transport them back to Brazil.[7]

Casualties and injuries[edit]

The bodies of the two deceased soldiers arrive at Galeão Air Force Base in Rio de Janeiro.

Two soldiers, sub-officer Carlos Alberto Vieira Figueiredo and sergeant Roberto Lopes dos Santos, originally reported as missing by the Brazilian Navy, were found dead in the debris of the station after the fire. Their remains were flown back home on 28 February 2012. They received honors in a military funeral held at the Galeão Air Force Base.[8]

Sergeant Luciano Gomes Medeiros suffered non-life-threatening injuries and received first aid treatment at the Arctowski Antarctic Station.[9]

Damage[edit]

On 26 February 2012, the Brazilian Navy issued a press release with a preliminary report of the extent of the damages. According to the report, although roughly 70% of the station was destroyed by the fire; the shelters, several laboratories (of meteorology, chemistry and atmospheric sciences), the fuel tanks and the heliport remained intact, as they were isolated from the main building.[1]

Reactions[edit]

Governmental response[edit]

President Rousseff issued a statement where she expressed her consternation over the accident and the death of the two Brazilian Navy soldiers and reiterated her "strong commitment to the full reconstruction of the Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station".[10] The Ministry of Defense announced that reconstruction plans would commence on 27 February 2012.[11] The Brazilian government estimates that it will take about two years to rebuild the station.[12]

International media[edit]

The accident received considerable coverage by the international media. In South America, Chilean and Argentine newspapers stressed the help of their respective countries in the evacuation effort. The Chilean newspaper La Nación quoted the call made by President Rousseff to the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, to acknowledge the support "in the relief and rescue" of those affected by the fire. The daily La Prensa Austral devoted an entire front page to the disaster. In Argentina, La Nación published an extensive story explaining the location of the Brazilian station and how the Argentine armed forces participated in the rescue. Clarín also stressed the aid of the country to Brazil. The reconstruction of the station and the solidarity with Brazil were also quoted by the Spanish El País, the Portuguese Público and the American The Washington Post.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b (Portuguese) Nota à Imprensa 3 – Incêndio na Estação Antártica Comandante Ferraz ("Press Release 3 - Fire at Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station") Brazilian Navy. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b Armada combate incendio en base antártica brasileña Chilean Navy. Retrieved on 2012-03-07. (Spanish).
  3. ^ Apoyo argentino tras el incendio en la base antártica brasileña Comandante Ferraz Ministry of Defense of Argentina. Retrieved on 2012-03-07. (Spanish).
  4. ^ Protector sailors tackle killer blaze at Antarctic base, navynews.co.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  5. ^ (Portuguese) Fogo em base brasileira na Antártida deixa dois mortos ("Fire at Brazilian base in Antarctica leaves two dead Diario do Grande ABC. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  6. ^ Fire at Brazil's Antarctic Base Kills 2, Injures 1 ABC News. Retrieved on 2012-03-06.
  7. ^ Loss of Antarctic base deals Brazil a major blow AFP. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  8. ^ Bodies of 2 killed in Antarctica flown home Arabnews. Retrieved on 2012-03-06.
  9. ^ Two die in fire at Brazil's Antarctic research station BBC. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  10. ^ (Portuguese) Nota à imprensa sobre o acidente na Estação Antártica Comandante Ferraz Presidency of Brazil. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  11. ^ (Portuguese) Ministro diz que planos de reconstrução da estação na Antártida começarão na segunda-feira ("Minister states that reconstruction plans of the Antarctic station start on Monday") UOL. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  12. ^ (Portuguese) Base da Marinha na Antártida será reconstruída em 2 anos, diz Amorim ("Navy base in Antarctica will be rebuilt in 2 years, says Amorim") G1. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  13. ^ Imprensa estrangeira destaca caso ("International features the accident") Ministry of Defense. Retrieved on 2012-03-06. (Portuguese).