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Sunday 25 February 2018

Brazil overpass collapse kills two

A car lies crushed underneath a collapsed bridge in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (AP/Victor R Caivano)
A car lies crushed underneath a collapsed bridge in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (AP/Victor R Caivano)

An overpass under construction has collapsed in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, killing at least two people and trapping a commuter bus, two trucks and a car.

The collapse in the World Cup host city is an embarrassment for a country that has been basking in praise for what has mostly been a smoothly running tournament.

The city government released a statement saying officials had counted two dead and 19 injured. There was no word on whether foreign tourists were among those killed or injured.

Authorities did not think the casualty numbers would rise too sharply, although 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. Officials said they would be working through the night trying to free the car.

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 dollars would be spent on 56 airports, subway lines and other such projects nationwide. But fewer than 10 of the infrastructure projects were completed in time for the tournament, including the project where the overpass collapsed in Belo Horizonte.

It is 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 20 yards from the overpass. "I looked out my window and panicked. I couldn't see anything but a huge cloud of dust."

Ms 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 ws closed for the day, but the fire department said officials had inspected the nearby apartment buildings and found no sign they were at risk because of the overpass collapse.

Among the dead was a woman who was driving a commuter bus trapped by the overpass, said the fire department.

The overpass collapsed about three miles from Mineirao stadium, which has hosted several World Cup matches in recent weeks and is the venue for a semi-final on Tuesday.

Press Association

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