RIO DE JANEIRO – A fire Monday gutted warehouses holding many of the elaborate, feather-and-sequin costumes and extravagant floats for Rio’s Carnival parade, destroying the dreams and hard work of thousands of mostly poor Brazilians who toil year-round to stage one of world’s most spectacular celebrations. Seamstresses, set designers and musicians watched in tears as firefighters struggled to control the blaze that raged through four warehouses. The fire devoured about 8,400 outfits and the ornate sets built each year in the battle to be the city’s top samba group.
Three hours into the early-morning blaze, the flames were controlled and 10 warehouses were unscathed, but some of the top contenders and up-and-comers in next month’s Carnival parade were knocked out of the competition. “Do you know what it feels like to work all day, into the night, to make this happen, and then this?” asked Graziela Goncalves Carvalho, a seamstress with Uniao da Ilha do Governador, one of the groups that appeared to have suffered heavy losses. “It’s over. There’s nothing. This Carnival is over for us.”
Carnival is a time when Rio’s residents and more than 700,000 visitors pour into the streets for a cathartic, nearly weeklong party where order is subverted and the poorest climb the highest floats dressed scantily in glitter and feathers, parading before the eyes of the world. The revelry culminates in the two-day competitive parade of the elite groups, and ends on Ash Wednesday, when order is restored.
After the fire, many of the participants spoke of pulling together to make sure everyone had something to wear, but with just a month left before the March 6 start of the competition, there is no way to replace the labor-intensive sets. To cariocas, as the people of Rio are known, the destruction was heartbreaking. “We’d been here 24 hours a day. We were in it to win this year,” said Moacir da Silva Pinto, the head of Academicos do Grande Rio’s approximately 300-strong percussion section. The percussionists’ costumes, which were being kept in the group’s home base in the town of Duque de Caxias, were the only ones saved. Portela, founded in 1923 and one of the city’s most traditional organizations, holds 21 championship titles. About 2,800 of its costumes and several sets went up in flames. – Yahoo News