Constructors confirm stadium's stands not damaged

Tales Azzoni - The Philippine Star

SAO PAULO — An inspection confirmed Friday that there is no structural damage to the stands of the stadium hosting the World Cup opener and more than 1,300 workers are expected back at the building site at the start of next week, the construction company said.

It was good news for local World Cup organizers and football's governing body FIFA, who on Wednesday were left wondering whether the Sao Paulo stadium would be ready for the June 12 opener after a crane collapsed while hoisting a 500-ton metal roofing structure, significantly damaging part of the venue and killing two workers.

It remains unlikely the Arena Corinthians will be completed by the end of December as required by FIFA, but the lack of major structural damage and the early restart of work almost guarantee that it will be ready for the opener more than six month from now.

Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company behind the Corinthians stadium project and three other World Cup venues, said engineers and civil defense officials were at the construction site on Friday. Representatives of German company Liebherr, which built the crane, also were present.

"Odebrecht reinforces that the structure of the stands was not compromised," Odebrecht said in a statement.

The metal structure being lifted by the crane toppled on top of the stands, damaging part of the already installed roof and cutting through a giant LED panel that runs across the stadium's outer facade. The crane fell just outside the venue.

Only the part where the accident happened was closed by civil defense officials, and Odebrecht said 1,350 workers will return to the construction site on Monday after a mourning period ends.

The Labor Ministry said Odebrecht was prohibited from using the other nine cranes at the site until they can show "safety measures are in place and there is no more risk of accidents."

The investigation into the cause of the accident continued with police planning to talk to the crane operator, but the interrogations were postponed until next week.

A police inspector told The Associated Press the crane operator is not yet suspected of any wrongdoing but is considered a key witness to the accident.

"We can't say anything about responsibility yet, but he was right there where the accident happened and it will be extremely important to hear what he has to say," Inspector Luiz Antonio da Cruz said in a telephone interview.

According to witnesses, the operator jumped out of the machine when he realized it was collapsing with the metal roofing structure still attached to it.

"We have to know what he saw, what he knows," Cruz said.

Brazilian media reported the operator was in shock after the accident and was allowed to go home. Cruz said police so far have only made an informal request to talk to him.

Civil defense authorities said they were following three lines of investigation: human error, mechanical problems and instability with the ground underneath the crane.

A labor union leader charged Thursday that a safety engineer warned his supervisor of possible problems with soil firmness around the crane due to recent rains but managers brushed aside his concerns. Odebrecht strongly denied the allegation.

Cruz said he also talked to the engineer in charge of the crane operation at the time of the accident, who denied any wrongdoing.

"He said that they had conducted similar operations several times before at the site and nothing had gone wrong," the inspector said.


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