SAO PAULO: Two workers were killed on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) when a crane collapsed at a stadium set to host next year’s World Cup opener, raising fresh doubts about Brazil’s ability to finish work for the tournament on schedule.
Andres Sanchez, operations director at the Arena Corinthians site, said the workers, aged 44 and 42, were crushed to death when a crane hoisting a 500-ton metallic piece to the top of the roof collapsed.
He said the cause of the accident was not yet known but was under investigation.
Sanchez insisted that the overall structure was not affected.
The accident came amid a scramble to meet a December 31 set by football’s governing body FIFA to complete work at the venue.
A third worker was rushed to hospital with injuries after the accident, which brought a shocked response from FIFA President Sepp Blatter and condolences from the Brazilian ministry of sport.
“I’m deeply saddened by the tragic death of workers @Corinthians arena today,” Blatter said on Twitter. “Our heartfealt condolences are with the families.”
Work on the site has been suspended for three days of mourning until next Monday, after which 30 percent of the site will be closed to assist the investigation.
Jair Paca de Lima, the civil defense coordinator, said the accident might have been caused by “an error in the operation of the crane or by the weight of the structure, which was being lifted.”
But construction giant Odebrecht, which is in charge of the project, said the crane was operated properly.
“The crane is capable of lifting three times the weight” of the structure, said Frederico Barbosa, the operations manager at the site.
FIFA, which has faced recent scrutiny over worker conditions at under-construction venues for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, later said safety standards for workers were “a top priority.”
Arena Corinthians is one of 12 World Cup venues planned for the tournament, for which Brazil has been struggling to overhaul its creaking infrastructure.
In addition to the opening of the Cup, the stadium will host five other games, including the semi-final, while the final will be played in Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium next July 13.
The reported $11-billion cost of staging the event has aroused public protests.