Calgary Herald

World Cup overpass collapses onto vehicles


BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL — An overpass under constructi­on collapsed Thursday in this World Cup host city, killing at least two people and trapping a commuter bus, two constructi­on trucks and a car in an embarrassm­ent for a country that has been basking in praise for what has mostly been a smoothly running soccer tournament.

At least 22 people were reported injured. There was not yet any word on whether foreign tourists were among those killed or injured.

Brazilian officials didn’t think the casualty numbers would rise too sharply — though they said they had not yet reached a small passenger car that was flattened by the falling overpass. It was not known if anyone inside the car escaped or remained inside.

The incident is the biggest black eye yet for Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup, which has been carried out with less chaos than many had feared.

In the run-up to the event, there were serious concerns about the ability of Brazil’s airports and roads to handle the influx of tourists because of delays or outright cancellati­ons of projects to improve urban transporta­tion.

After Brazil was awarded the World Cup in 2007, politician­s promised $8 billion would be spent on 56 airports, subway lines and other such projects nationwide. But less than 10 of the infrastruc­ture projects were completed in time for the tournament, including the project where the overpass collapsed in Belo Horizonte.

It was not known what caused the overpass to fall. Cowan, the constructi­on company responsibl­e for building it, said investigat­ors were on site but had not released any conclusion­s.

“It sounded like an earthquake or a bomb,” said Alexandra Pereira, a teacher who was taking a nap with her 10-year-old son in her apartment building just 20 metres from the overpass. “I looked out my window and panicked. I couldn’t see anything but a huge cloud of dust.”

Within seconds, Pereira said, her neighbours from the ground floor rushed out to pull injured from the bus that was partially trapped under the overpass.

Pereira said she and several neighbours in a group of nine residentia­l buildings close to the overpass had long complained to the mayor’s office that they feared for their safety from the constructi­on and asked authoritie­s for compensati­on so they could move.

She said the request was rejected and the mayor’s office assured them the project was safe. The mayor’s office was closed for the day, but Lt.Col. Edgar Estevo da Silva, a spokesman for the fire department, said officials had inspected the nearby apartment buildings and didn’t find any sign they were at risk because of the overpass collapse.

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