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Aussies warn of possible Rio fire hazards

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/07/2016 Steve Larkin

Australia has warned other countries of possible fire hazards at the Rio Olympic village after conceding some failings in its emergency plans.

Australian team boss Kitty Chiller is disturbed that some team members were oblivious to an emergency evacuation during a fire in their residence at the athletes' village on Friday.

Shooter Warren Potent slept through the evacuation during the blaze, which team hierarchy believe was started by a cigarette tossed into piles of rubbish by a local worker.

Fire alarms had been deactivated at the time and Potent says he wasn't woken by door-knocking or phone calls to evacuate.

"I didn't know it even happened, to be honest," Potent told reporters on Saturday.

"We had our protocol in place but it doesn't actually work when I'm asleep and the phone is on silent, unfortunately."

Chiller, flanking Potent at a media conference, was troubled the 54-year-old wasn't evacuated with about 100 other members of the Australian team.

"Sorry Warren, I'm glad you got a good little power nap there but it's something that I will take back to make sure that doesn't happen again," she said.

Chiller has warned team leaders of other nations about potential fire hazards.

"I spoke to a couple of my colleagues, three or four other NOCs (national Olympic committees) last night, and just said `look, check your basement, see what rubbish is still left there'," she said.

"And we will definitely be bringing it up at the chefs de mission meeting tomorrow morning that all the rubbish is cleared."

Chiller and her emergency support team have now elected fire wardens for each of the 18 floors of the Australian residence at the village.

Overnight, firemen were stationed on all floors, and security guards in the basement, in a temporary measure.

Australian officials were unaware that fire alarms had been deactivated.

"Obviously that is completely unacceptable that a) the fire alarm was disabled and b) that if it had to be, that we weren't warned about that," Chiller said.

There had been "numerous people" given approval to deactivate the alarms - now there was just one, she said.

Australian hierarchy have since triple-checked the fire alarms are working again after Chiller met with Rio 2016 organisers and the International Olympic Committee.

"There was no point in laying blame or saying `could have or should have' at that point last night," she said.

Chiller last Sunday refused to allow the Australians to take residence in their building, number 23 at the village, because of safety concerns. The team moved in three days later after hasty repairs.

"It was just `really, of all the 31 buildings, it had to be building 23 after everything that has happened," Chiller said.

"I don't think you could write that script."

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