Fire Damage of Venezuela’s Tallest Building Caused Losses of Up To $300 Million

The fire in Venezuela's tallest skyscraper, whose top 22 floors went up in flames last Sunday, caused losses of up to $300 million and will cost about $20 million to repair. Two ministries that were practically wiped out were declared in a state of emergency.

Caracas, October 20, 2004—The Caracas landmark skyscraper that was partially destroyed by fire last Sunday, produced losses of up to $300 million and will cost about $20 million to repair. Reconstruction would take between 12 and 18 months to finish, according to Hector Dubuc, the engineer who supervised the construction of the building 30 years ago.

The structure of the east tower of the Parque Central building and large exterior windows “are totally salvageable, if we work hard between a year and a year and a half.  I say this because the tower is like my daughter and I am ready to rebuild her,” Dubuc said.

The Minister of Communication and Information, Andres Izarra, said that the damage to furniture, equipment and archives in the dozens of destroyed offices “is extensive but not yet evaluated.” 

The Minister of the Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacon, said in a weekly radio program that he hosts that the total losses from the fire are estimated to be at about $300 million.

Meanwhile documents of the insurance policy for the building have not turned up yet.  The last policy registered was in 2002 and covered the owners of the building for up to $200 million.   Those affected by the fire are starting to petition the owners and administrators of the Parque Central building. 

Ministry of Infrastructure under State of Emergency

The council of ministers passed a resolution this Monday which placed the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Ministry of Agriculture under a state of emergency, as a result of the massive fire that destroyed their headquarters.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Ramón Carrizalez Rengifo, said that a council of ministers named a high level comission to evaluate the Parque Central complex and will present a plan to recuperate not only the building affected by fire but the entire complex which is a massive concrete development of residences and businesses that covers up to three city blocks in downtown Caracas.

The comission will be composed of the Ministers of Interior and Justice and Housing, and the Caracas district mayor, Freddy Bernal, as well as the owner of the building, among others.

Carrizales said that the poor maintenance situation of the complex is being taken as a state problem to resolve long-standing issues.

No water to put out fire

The Chief of Caracas firefighters, Rodolfo Briceño said that they could not control the fire for lack of water. Also, the internal sprinkler system failed to function.

Briceño noted that years ago, a huge water tank with a capacity to hold millions of liters of water was built in a nearby neighborhood, but it never worked.

He also said that each floor of the building lacked sufficient fire extinguishing systems and that the existing water pumps could not keep up with demand and failed to bring water up to the top floors.

Briceño said that firefighters reached only floor 15 by elevator and then climbed up the stairs to the top floors with 400 and 500 meter long hoses and pumps that weighed 100 kilograms.

The fire chief said that floors 35-48 sustained structural damage.