A voracious fire this Saturday morning inLa Carpio, in La Uruca, San José, completely consumed a structure and left seven people dead: five adults and two children.
The alarm went off at 3:54 am confirmed the Bomberos (fire department).
“It is a single two storey structure, the second floor collapsed due to the fire,” said Ronny La Touche, Chief of Operations, who added that the building, apparently, was used as a rooming house, in which was used also for storing building materials.
The firefighter explained that three of the bodies were located in the same point and the other four were distributed in different areas of the dwelling.
For him, the position of the bodies indicates they tried to escape. “They were mostly in the back and the second floor, so they were probably trying to get away from the flames,” said the firefighter.
Eight other people living in the structure, seven adults and a young girl, survived the fire and were transferred to medical centers, where they are being treated.
La Touche stated that most of the structure was made of concrete, but that the internal divisions and a large number of metal bars hindered the rescue work.
Two neighboring structures suffered partial damage.
This is the worst tragedy, with so many fatalities at the scene fire, since 2005 when a fire at the Hospital Calderon Guardia took the lives of 17 people.
In more recent case of multiple deaths in one fire was in 2016, in Leo XIII, in Tibás, where four adults and one minor died.
La Carpio is one of the poorest and conflictive (dangerous) areas of San Jose, where more than half the people there live in “tugurios” (slum housing) and many of the ‘regular’ housing in very poor condition.
Apart from the fact that a majority lives in slums, many families face their day-to-day living in overcrowded conditions, with an average of five people in each dwelling.
The La Carpio is located in between two rivers – the Torres and Virilla, both heavily polluted – with only one access to and from the community, the road west of the Hospital Mexico.
The La Carpio community grew out of a need for low-income housing, founded just over 20 years ago on a farm that belonged to the Social Security System (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) – the state social security.
In a report by La Nacion last year, only 9% of the families in a community estimated to have almost 20,000 people, own their homes.
The La Carpio is also the site of one the major landfills in the country, that receives solid waste from a large part of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).