Two Brazilian soldiers died and another was injured in a fire at the Comandante Ferraz research base that Brazil maintains in Antarctica, officials said.
“In an act of heroism, they were right at the spot of greatest risk, in an attempt to contain the fire and they did not achieve that. All the researchers and civilian officials were rescued and are on the continent, in Chile,” Defense Minister Celso Amorim said.
Saturday’s fire also injured Sgt. Luciano Gomes Medeiros, who is out of mortal danger and was transferred first to the Polish Arctowski station to receive first aid, the navy said.
Medeiros and the rest of the people posted to the base were taken by helicopter to Chile’s Eduardo Frei base, from where they traveled to the Chilean city of Punta Arenas.
The 15 members of the battalion responsible for base maintenance and operations, who had remained on site carrying out the work of extinguishing the fire, had to abandon their labors due to weather conditions.
The detachment is scheduled to return to Comandante Ferraz, some 130 kilometers (81 miles) from the Antarctic continent on King George Island, when the weather improves to evaluate the damage.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera on Sunday offered to his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, his administration’s support in rebuilding the research base.
Both leaders held a telephone conversation on Saturday in which Piñera expressed to Rousseff his “solidarity” after the fire and offered Chile’s help in the reconstruction efforts, the Chilean government said in a statement.
Brazil began operating its Antarctic research base in 1984 and at the time of the fire there were 59 people, including military personnel and scientists, housed there.