Two people were confirmed dead by local authorities in Sao Paulo yesterday, as a crane collapsed onto part of a stand at the newly-constructed Itaquerao arena.
The stadium is due to host the opening ceremony at next summer’s World Cup as well as six matches during the tournament including a semi-final.
The news comes as pressure grows over Fifa’s deadline for all 12 World Cup stadiums to be completed before the end of the year, although the Itaquerao wasn’t seen as problematic in that regard before yesterday, with authorities saying that 94% of the ground was fully built at the time of the accident. It was expected to be fully finished by January 4 or 5 but that date will be pushed well back as inspectors review the damage.
The cause remains unknown, although military police initially said that soil giving way was behind the accident that occurred at about 12.50 (14.50 Irish time), as the final part of the roof was being moved into place when the crane lifting it collapsed.
According to one local worker who wished to remain nameless, the crane had been holding a 15m section, weighing 500 tonnes, for over 40 minutes.
The worker also suggested that due to strict deadlines, those working for the wellknown Odebrecht construction company had been put under huge stress.
A local report also suggested the other was a worker who was taking a break in a restricted area. It is not yet known where the second fatality occurred.
However, it is believed there could have been many more fatalities only for the timing, as most of the 1,000 or so workers were on a lunchbreak.
In the immediate aftermath, one reporter taking photographs of the damage was confronted by former Corinthians chairman Andres Sanchez, members of security and a site engineer.
The reporter had his phone removed and was forced to delete the images he had taken. Shortly afterwards, a Corinthians statement read: “The crane, which was lifting the last truss of the stadium’s metal cover, fell, causing the piece to fall. It is the 38th time this kind of procedure had taken place during build. A piece of this size was installed a week ago.”
The union which represents construction workers on the site called for an immediate stoppage until an investigation was held.
The Itaquerao upon completion will have a capacity of 65,807, including 20,000 temporary seats and is seen as one of the more hi-tech stadiums being built.
However, this is the latest problem in the build-up to a tournament that has been blighted by building-site incidents, construction delays and civil unrest.
Last year a worker died at a stadium in Brasilia, and another died at the Manaus arena in March.
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