Brazil World Cup Work Claims 6th Life After Crane Accident

A worker helping build a World Cup stadium in northern Brazil was killed in an accident today, becoming the sixth construction-related fatality at tournament stadiums as the country struggles to complete preparations before games begin in June.

Antonio Jose Pita Martins, a 55-year-old Portuguese national, died from injuries sustained while dismantling a crane at the Arena da Amazonia stadium in Manaus, Amazonas state, according to a statement on the Sport Ministry website and one e-mailed by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. FIFA said worker safety is a high priority and it doesn’t compromise on security.

Today’s was the third fatal accident in World Cup-related construction in Manaus and the fourth nationwide since two workers died following a Nov. 27 crane accident in Sao Paulo. Preparations for the tournament that starts June 12 have been beset by cost overruns and delays, prompting FIFA President Sepp Blatter last month to say Brazil began World Cup projects too late.

Martins died just over two hours after being hospitalized, according to a statement from the Amazonas government. Surgeons were treating the construction worker for head injuries when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Spending, Deadlines

Brazil is spending 8 billion reais ($3.4 billion) on 12 stadiums for the event, which will be staged in Brazil for the first time since 1950. All six stadiums that were meant to be completed by the end of 2013 missed the FIFA-imposed deadline. That’s led to a rush to ensure they’re ready for the tournament kickoff.

FIFA’s Secretary General Jerome Valcke on Jan. 22 warned that the stadium in Curitiba, Parana state, may be withdrawn from the list of venues because of construction delays. President Dilma Rousseff responded a day later saying Brazil would be ready to host the World Cup and that stadiums are “relatively simple structures.”

The death toll so far is three times that of 2010 host South Africa, where two construction workers died, according to local media reports. Organizers of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London said there were no fatalities during the construction work for that event.

An Amazonas government press official was unable to say whether the accident will affect the opening date of the Manaus stadium, scheduled for after Feb. 14. The structure is 97 percent complete, the state said in a Feb. 4 statement.

More than 1 million people protested in the streets of Brazil last June, in part over the high cost of building stadiums and poor quality of public services.

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