Panic as fire rips through 10-storey Cascais apartment block

Hundreds of apartments in the smart 10-storey Cascais Atrium building are feared to have been destroyed by a fire that began in the early hours of Saturday morning, forcing the evacuation of scores of families and residents.

Six people were treated in hospital for smoke inhalation while the block in a classy upmarket area overlooking the sea remains a no-go area to everyone but those involved in civil protection and the assessment of damages.

It is not known when the building will be ready for re-habitation, or how many apartments have been ruined – though fire chief Carlos Mata stresses that structurally it remains sound.

“Apart from the fire, homes were damaged by the water used to fight the fire,” he told reporters on Sunday. With electricity cabling and water supplies destroyed “people do not have the conditions to stay in their homes”, he added.

The building has to get the professional “all-clear” from fire and civil protection authorities before council technicians can move in to assess the damages.

As one householder told reporters on Saturday: “Without doubt, I have lost everything. From outside, I could see the flames coming from my apartment and now I can see all the smoke with the firemen inside.”

Other residents talked of their panic, of scooping up children in pyjamas and running into the street in fear for their lives.

The fire – believed to have started in a television set on the fifth floor, appears to have hit the upper storeys worse – though there is also extensive damage to lower areas.

But while repairs are certain to stretch into months, another twist in the story has emerged. Residents allowed to return to the building to collect belongings have talked of thefts of property.

“Mobile phones, computers, tablets, jewellery and money have been taken mysteriously,” writes national tabloid Correio da Manhã.

Eryck Oliveira, a Brazilian living on the seventh floor, told the paper he has already filed a complaint with the PSP over an iPad he claims was stolen, “with the charger left hanging on the wall”. He says €200 was also stolen from his wallet.

Another resident told CM how she went into her apartment twice, once to collect medication when she saw her tablet. When she returned, “it had disappeared”.

Residents claim thefts have been helped by the fact that the doors to damaged apartments were left open “to facilitate works”.

Cascais fire chief João Loureiro has said he has no knowledge of the alleged thefts.

For now, there is no information on what kind of insurance help residents will receive.

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Caption: It is not known when the Cascais Atrium building will be ready for residents to move back in.