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ARGENTINA: Salesians Assist Victims of Massive Apartment Building Explosion

(MissionNewswire) Salesians in Argentina are joining efforts to help the victims of a massive explosion that happened just four blocks away from their headquarters in San José, Rosario.

The Aug. 6 explosion—which destroyed apartment buildings filled with tenants—is being called the worst disaster in the history of the city, the third largest in the country.

“We did not suffer damage to our house, but the loud impact was heard that morning. Our school and other similar institutes in the area had to close for two days, at the request of the secretary for education in the province,” according to Father Ricardo Campoli, a Salesian priest in San José.

A fundraising campaign to solicit donations to assist the victims is being coordinated by Caritas Commission of the Salesian parish of Mary Help of Christians, together with neighboring parishes.

“The accident happened when a gas regulator was being replaced,” Fr. Campoli explained. “The worker in charge of this operation foresaw the explosion and ran out, shouting to everybody to get away from the complex, which consisted of three towers. Five minutes later the explosion occurred, and in a very short space of time, one of the nine-story towers collapsed. The surrounding towers also collapsed, and glass was flying in all directions. The tremor caused by the explosion was felt up to 40 blocks away.”

From the Salesian university chaplaincy and youth ministries to civil agencies, people rushed to help by providing food, blankets and comfort. Some even offered to take those left homeless into their own homes.

“The size of this event has left a trail of dead and wounded,” said Fr. Campoli. “So far, we have counted 12 dead, more than 60 injured, and 14 unaccounted for, among them children, adolescents, and adults of all ages. In the midst of so much suffering and loss, it is truly admirable to see the swift and effective support given by so many people.”

The Associated Press reported that dozens of people were trapped in the upper floors of the burning building. The building’s front and back facades were ripped open, exposing the shattered remains of apartments inside. Much of the downtown area has been evacuated as firefighters continue to search for victims in the rubble.

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that the explosion destroyed an entire apartment block.

Rescue workers stand among the rubble after an explosion caused by a gas leak tore through a 10-storey building in Rosario city, in the province of Santa Fe August 6, 2013. Twelve people have died, 60 injured and 15 remain missing as firefighters and rescue workers continue to search for people believed to be trapped in the area, according to local authorities. REUTERS/Marcelo Masuelli