Ten dead in fire at football club ground in Brazil

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A fire at a football club training center in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro early Friday left 10 players dead, all minors aged 14 to 16, the fire department said.

The center operated by football club Flamengo housed a total of 26 players. Only half of them were able to escape the pre-dawn blaze, which spread rapidly through the facility's air-conditioning system, according to one of the young residents.

"The air conditioner caught fire and was generating a short circuit in all the air conditioners. Everything caught fire and it was very quick, there was practically no time to call anyone," a player identified as Samuel told reporters.

Among the fatal victims was goalkeeper Christian Esmerio, 15, considered an up-and-coming player that foreign clubs were keeping an eye on.

Three other players were injured in the incident, including one with burns on 40 percent of his body.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire -- which started at about 5 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) as most of the players were sleeping -- including a possible short-circuit.

However, "it's too early to tell" what caused the fire, Rio Deputy Governor Claudio Castro said.

Rodolfo Landim, president of the Flamengo club, called it "the worst tragedy in the club's 123-year history."

The city of Rio, meanwhile, said the center did not have the license to operate as a residence.

The area that houses the dormitories was labeled in the plans submitted to the city as "a parking lot," officials said. 

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