January 19, 2009 in City

Church roof collapse kills 7 in Brazil

By TALES AZZONI Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Rescue teams search among the debris of a church after its roof collapsed Sunday evening, killing seven and injuring dozens more.
(Full-size photo)

SAO PAULO, Brazil – The roof of a Brazilian church caved in shortly after a religious service on Sunday, killing 7 people and injuring dozens more.

About 60 people were inside when the roof fell to the floor, Reborn in Christ church spokeswoman Marli Goncalves told the Associated Press.

Sao Paulo state Gov. Jose Serra, who visited the site, said the toll was seven dead and 57 people injured. He did not elaborate on their condition.

The cause of the collapse was not immediately clear, and authorities were investigating. Goncalves said the building was up to code.

Police and rescuers picked through a latticework of bent steel splayed across the floor of the evangelical church, housed in a former movie theater. The church, which can hold 2,000 worshippers and is usually crowded on Sundays, was relatively empty at the time of the collapse because it happened between two services, according to Goncalves.

As many as 1,000 people would likely have been inside just minutes before or after, she said.

Reborn in Christ church leaders Estevam Hernandes Filho and Sonia Haddad Moraes Hernandes pleaded guilty in 2007 to smuggling more than $56,000 into the United States hidden in their luggage.

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