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Firefighters manage to bring a major blaze under control in Rio de Janeiro's Carnival Center on Monday. But not before thousands of lavish floats and costumes were turned into ashes.
Thick plumes of smoke rose over central Rio early Monday morning from the City of Samba complex - a grim reminder of how voracious a fire can be.
This blaze consumed thousands of costumes and floats in the cluster of samba groups or "schools" where the city's best Carnival groups spend months preparing their spectacular annual parades.
At least three of the 12 top samba groups were badly hit by the fire, just weeks before their scheduled parades through Rio's Sambadrome, which get under way on March 6 and 7.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes held an emergency meeting with Carnival officials and said he was confident that all of the top samba schools would parade.
But those most badly hit might not recoup in time to compete for the annual prizes.
[Eduardo Paes, Mayor, Rio de Janeiro]:
"I've already been here twice this year, touring the warehouses. Uniao da Ilha samba school was fully ready (for the Carnival), Grande Rio was ready, Portela's preparations were very advanced. Unfortunately it's going to be difficult to restore the work of a whole year in 30 days. But these schools have the hallmark of Rio's Carnival -- lots of passion and lots of people involved. Carnival will go on."
The fire was brought under control by mid-morning but how the fire started was unclear.
More than 3,000 costumes were turned into ashes in the shed of Grande Rio, the worst-affected school.
No one was reported killed in the fire, although at least one person was treated for smoke inhalation.
The sprawling City of Samba complex was completed in 2005 at a cost of millions of dollars.
Ironically, one of the aims of the new structure was to avoid the fires that had hit Carnival preparations in the past.