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World Cup stadium tragedy: union says soil was 'too soft' for the heavy crane

Saturday, November 30th 2013 - 06:37 UTC
Full article 18 comments
The Globo video shows the giant crane falter and tumble heavily to the ground The Globo video shows the giant crane falter and tumble heavily to the ground

A safety engineer at the World Cup stadium where a giant crane collapse killed two workers allegedly warned his supervisor of possible problems with the operation, only to have his concerns brushed aside, a labor union leader charged on Thursday, as sniping over the accident heated up.

 The incident has fed worries about Brazil's capacity to host next year's showcase tournament, as well as the 2016 Olympics, though authorities insist they will be ready for both.

Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians was slated to be completed by the end of December, and workers have suggested that speed was a top priority on the construction site, with many working 12-hour shifts and skipping vacations.

The stadium was initially scheduled to be part of the Confederations Cup earlier this year, but world football's governing body FIFA scrapped the venue from the warm-up tournament because of financing problems before construction even started.

Antonio de Sousa Ramalho, president of Sao Paulo's civil industry workers' association, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that supervisors pressed ahead with the operation to finish the roof despite several rainy days that soaked the soil. He said the engineer warned his supervisor that the ground was not stable enough to support the 454-tons piece of roofing.

“To his surprise, he was told by the supervisor that nothing was wrong and work should continue,” said Ramalho, who declined to provide the worker's name for fear of possible reprisals. “They discussed the matter for a while but in the end the supervisor's decision stood.”

Odebrecht, the powerful Brazilian construction company behind the stadium project and three other World Cup venues, strongly denied the claims, and a civil defense official said an initial inspection of the construction site a day after the accident showed no evidence the ground was unstable.

“Odebrecht and Sport Club Corinthians clarify that there was no warning previous to the accident,” the statement said. The company added that Ramalho's union does not represent most of the workers involved in the crane operation.

A video released on Thursday by Globo television network shows how quickly the accident took place. The video, which Globo said was shot by architect Marcio Antonio Campos during a visit to the site Wednesday, shows the giant crane falter and tumble heavily to the ground. After the crash, dozens of hard-hated workers are seen streaming toward the accident site.

According to Brazilian media reports, investigators are also looking into human or mechanical error as possible reasons for the collapse.

The area where the accident happened will remain closed, but work can resume at most of the stadium as soon as Monday, when a three-day mourning period ends. Constructors will be allowed to clear the crane and the metal structure after getting clearance from civil defense authorities.

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  • golfcronie

    Why is it that these 3 rd world countries spoksepersons have to remain anonomous, because they face reprisals. No wonder they lie and cheat because feel the truth will have repercussions. Man up you lot.

    Nov 30th, 2013 - 08:00 am 0
  • ChrisR

    @ 1 golfcronie

    I think you may have misunderstood what is going on here.

    It seems to me that the “safety engineer” is more like akin to a normal worker with a fancy title which portrays something that he is not: he is not an engineer.

    No QUALIFIED engineer would tolerate being overridden especially by a “supervisor” (not a Manager, note) and no EXPERIENCED engineer would accept it full stop.

    That doesn’t stop the guy from being correct, which he is, it just leaves him without the necessary authority to see the job done correctly and the results are for everyone to see.

    Hasn’t Odebrecht just been awarded the contract for the soy and grains highway; that will be under the spotlight if the government have any qualified engineers of their own that is.

    Nov 30th, 2013 - 11:41 am 0
  • GeoffWard2

    Odebrecht is awarded most big construction jobs in Brasil.

    The Mercopress article seems a bit mixed up.
    It says the warning was about the rain-soaked ground supporting the *roof section*.
    Then it says the ground showed no evidence of instability.
    Yet we know that it was the crane that 'lost its posture' and then crashed into the stadium roof.

    Whatever; it was the 'need for speed', and cutting corners on safety, that produced the problem for Corinthians' Itaquerao Stadium and the two deaths.

    There was a raft of hard-core over which the crane's caterpillar-tracks were moved.
    It looks to me as if a high loading and the angles of lift vectored the crane's superstructure beyond the stable footprint.
    I guess we might see the technical report in the professional journals, given time.

    Nov 30th, 2013 - 12:57 pm 0
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