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Rio subway breakdown adds to Monday’s security lapses in Pope Francis visit

Wednesday, July 24th 2013 - 07:23 UTC
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Despite the metro's stoppage, people remained upbeat Despite the metro's stoppage, people remained upbeat

Rio de Janeiro's subway broke down on Tuesday, causing chaos for throngs of pilgrims in town for a huge Catholic gathering and a papal visit already marked by security lapses. Crowds of people crammed into buses, scrambled to find taxis or began walking toward Copacabana beach for an evening mass to officially kick off World Youth Day.

The city's two subway lines were down for two hours after a power cable broke, a Rio Metro statement said. The underground system was the main way for people to get from downtown to the beach, where tens of thousands gathered for a mass to be led by the archbishop of Rio.

The metro breakdown came as local authorities grappled with security lapses during the pope's arrival on Monday, when crowds were able to approach his car and touch the 76-year-old Argentine pontiff despite massive security.

Rio's organization of World Youth Day and the visit of Pope Francis are seen as a test for its ability to host World Cup games next year and the Olympic Games in 2016.

Last month's Confederations Cup, an international soccer tournament seen as a dry run for the World Cup, was marked by massive protests over the country's poor public services, corruption and the billions spent on hosting sporting events.

Despite the metro's stoppage, people remained upbeat near a downtown station, with many singing and smiling as they looked for alternative ways to the beach. Some chanted “This is the pope's youth!”

Local radio, however, said police had to block a group of angry passengers from trying to rush into the Botafogo Metro station. At another station, commuters demanded explanations from metro employees.

Some 1.5 million people from 170 nations are expected to be in Rio for the week-long event.

The pope was taking the day off on Tuesday, but he will resume his hectic schedule on Wednesday with a visit to a shrine in Sao Paulo state followed by more contact with big crowds on Copacabana on Thursday and Friday.

Francis sent a Twitter message to the faithful before World Youth Day, saying: “Dear young friends, Christ has confidence in you and he entrusts his own mission to you: Go and make disciples.”

Earlier, he sent another tweet to thank his flock and “all the authorities for a magnificent welcome in Rio.”

Categories: Politics, Brazil.

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