Recipe for disaster: take 30,000 tons of sugar, turn up heat, and stand well back

Following a fire at a warehouse, a flood of molten caramel threatens a Brazilian town

in Rio de Janeiro

A thick river of treacle is threatening to swamp a town in Sao Paulo state in southern Brazil, after a fire in a warehouse melted more than 30,000 tons of sugar. The blaze comes just days after a large fire in the port of Santos, also in the state, destroyed six warehouses leased by Copersucar, the largest exporter of sugar and ethanol in Brazil.

The fire, which erupted on Friday, began after a spark from machinery powering a loading belt ignited sugar stored in the depot owned by Agrovia Sugar Company.

Firefighters tackling the blaze on the industrial site in Santa Adelia, struggled for more than 75 hours to bring the flames under control. As the fire swept through the building, melted molasses poured out onto the streets and towards people’s homes. Nearly 20 residents were moved out into hotels as four were reported to have been injured.

“The fire consumed the entire warehouse, and firefighting teams worked to isolate a second depot by cooling the walls,” said Guilherme Raposo, chief executive of Agrovia.

Recent reports indicate the blaze is now under control but there are still fears the strength of the melted sugar and high temperatures could bring down the warehouse.

Barriers of earth were piled in front of houses to try to prevent the syrupy liquid from engulfing them. Emergency services are still battling against a steady tide of heavy caramel after four days and large suctioning machinery is being used to siphon up the thick liquid. Tractors and JCB diggers are scooping up the sugary substance, a ditch has been dug around the affected area to channel the flow and barriers have been installed in an attempt to reduce contamination to the local river.

“I am really worried about my home being invaded with this mess,” said Augusto Costa, a local builder. “The liquid is already around my house and I don’t know how bad it’s going to get.”

According to Jose Ferreira de Andrade, an engineer from the Environmental, Sanitation and Technology Company for Sao Paulo (CETESB) the flood of treacle has already polluted the nearby river Sao Domingos killing fish.

“Yesterday, oxygen levels in the water were zero,” said Mr Andrade.  “The product is not toxic, but because of its density it depletes the oxygen. So far we have already collected over 15kg of dead fish,” he added.

“The sugar did not belong to Agrovia, but it is still our responsibility,” Mr Raposa admitted. The loss of this volume of sugar represents approximately $130 million, according to market analysts.

A ditch has been dug around the affected area to channel the flow of the river of treacle A ditch has been dug around the affected area to channel the flow of the river of treacle
The Agrovia plant, located 450km from the port of Santos, supplies 20 per cent of sugar to the state of Sao Paulo and exports 1.7 million tons worldwide. The blaze is likely to push up sugar prices again.

Following the fire in Santos that destroyed 180,000 tons of sugar on 18 October, sugar prices rose by 2.63 per cent. Brazil is the largest producer in the world. This year through to September, Brazil exported 13 million tons of sugar, earning $5.9billion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living