Deadly Accident at Brazil World Cup Arena Causes Delay

The damage caused two days ago in a deadly accident at the stadium that will host the opening match of next year’s soccer World Cup in Brazil will set back work by two months, the facility’s structural engineer said.

Two men died at Sao Paulo’s Itaquera stadium when a 1,500-ton crane collapsed as it raised the final piece of the arena’s roof. A 400-ton piece of metal, estimated at 100 meters (109 yards) long, or roughly the length of a soccer field, tore a gash through the east wing’s facade.

Investigators, the public prosecutor’s office and ministry of labor officials visited the site yesterday. The incident will delay completion to late February, structural engineer Jorg Spangenberg said. The accident could have been much worse and threatened more lives, he said.

“If the crane had collapsed another 20 degrees it would have hit the main structure,” he said in telephone interview. “Then it would have been impossible to finish before the World Cup, and even more disastrous.”

The accident has led to speculation that the 820 million reais ($354 million) arena might not be ready to host the World Cup’s opener on June 12, and raised further doubts about Brazil’s ability to stage sport’s most-watched event following delays and cost overruns. Earlier this week the government said costs to build or refurbish the 12 host stadiums had soared by about 1 billion reais to 8 billion reais.

Two Months

“We are expecting a maximum delay of two months,” Spangenberg said, speaking from Sao Paulo. “We think it will be done by late February.”

Spangenberg, who works for Stuttgart, Germany-based engineering company Werner Sobek GmbH & Co., added he had “little or no doubt” that the 70,000-seat arena would be ready for the first game, when host nation Brazil will play. The stadium was 94 percent complete before the accident.

“Everyone on site was saying we’ll manage to do it,” Spangenberg said. “There’s a six-month time buffer that FIFA asked for from the beginning of the tournament, and we’ll probably eat into two months of it.”

The accident has prompted a separate investigation by soccer’s governing body FIFA, which had wanted all stadium construction completed by next month. Brazilian team Corinthians will use the facility after the World Cup.

Corinthians signed a contract today with Caixa Economica Federal for the disbursement of a 400 million reais loan from Brazil’s state development bank, more than a year after the loans was approved, according to e-mailed responses from the Corinthians and Caixa. BNDES originated the loan and Caixa will assume the default risk.

Unclear Cause

The damage to the facility is still being evaluated, tournament organizers said in an e-mailed statement, and more information will be released before the 32-team competition’s draw on Dec. 6.

Spangenberg said it’s still unclear what led to the collapse, saying the crane, the biggest in Brazil, was beyond repair. He said it was unable to withstand the lateral pressure of the roof support that was being hoisted into place, the last of about 40 pieces.

An automated warning system on the crane may have failed to activate though “it was clear something was wrong” so an alarm signal sounded to alert workers, Spangenberg said. The crane’s driver managed to escape his cab before the collapse, and most workers fled the danger area. One worker was killed when he inadvertently ran in the wrong direction, Spangenberg added.


Spangenberg said the site was one of the safest by Brazilian standards. There hadn’t been any serious accidents on the project during the 9.5 million man hours there before the incident, Odebrecht Infrastructura, the company building the stadium said. A construction worker died on the site of the World Cup stadium in Brasilia last year, while another fatality occurred in an arena being built in Manaus, the capital of the Amazonian region.

“If you think of Brazil, and look at other construction sites, then you can say the risks are very, very high on other projects in Brazil,” Spangenberg said. “On this site no. They have constructed state-of-the-art films on safety. Our impression was really positive before this. There was no accident before this. This was a bit of a tragic surprise.”

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