RIO DE JANEIRO: At least seven footballers were among the 10 people who died in a fire which broke out late Thursday night in the training centre in Rio of Flamengo, former world champions and one of Brazl’s greatest and most historic clubs.

The victims were in a dormitory in the Ninho de Urubu (Vulture’s Nest) arena. Three teenagers were also injured, one of them seriously.

One young player said the fire started in an air conditioner in his room in an older part of the centre that was due to be rebuilt.

Felipe Cardoso, a member of the under-17 side, said: “The air conditioner caught fire and I ran out. Thank God I managed to run and I’m still alive.”

Club president Rodolfo Landim said: “This is without a doubt the worst tragedy in this club’s 123-year history. The most important thing now is for us to try to minimise the pain and suffering of these families.”

Newly-elected state President Jair Bolsonaro, who is receiving treatment for pneumonia, tweeted a statement from the hospital “in solidarity” with the mourning families.

The players are said to have been aged between 14 and 16.

Six have been identified as: Christian Esmério, 15; Arthur Vinícius de Barros Silva Freitas, 14 years old; Pablo Henrique da Silva Matos, 14 years old; Bernardo Pisetta, 15 years old; Vitor Isaias, 15 years old; and Athila Passion, 14.

Fire service Lt Col Douglas Henaut told reporters that rescuers managed to save victims outside the building, but “we only found bodies inside”. He added: “The place was completely overtaken by fire.”

Flamengo’s famous past players include World Cup winners Ronaldinho, Bebeto and Romario. The club is a multi-sport organisation which includes basketball, rowing, swimming and volleyball sections.

The club’s scheduled weekend match against traditional rivals Fluminense has been postponed.