LATIN AMERICA

Rise in worker fatalities at Brazil’s World Cup stadiums sparks safety concerns

Only in October did figures begin to be released about the number of deaths

Workers at Arena Amâzonia, in Manaus.
Workers at Arena Amâzonia, in Manaus.MARCUS BRANDT / EFE

With six months to go before Brazil hosts the soccer World Cup, at least a half dozen workers have perished at infrastructure sites where construction is being carried out at a fast pace to meet deadlines, which has raised safety concerns at the hastily built new stadiums.

The latest fatalities occurred on Saturday when two workers died within five hours of each other in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state. The details surrounding their deaths were not clear.

Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira, 22, died after he plunged 35 meters while he was installing a lighting system at the Amazônia Arena, where Italy and England are scheduled to play a group match. Earlier in the day, José Antônio da Silva Nacimiento, 49, died after suffering a heart attack when he tried to climb into a container containing asphalt residues at the Amazonas Convention Center, which Fifa will use for its Manaus meetings with other delegations.

After the two accidents, the Labor Ministry on Sunday canceled all work at the two adjacent sites. Work has been carried out on Saturdays in an effort to meet a tight schedule before the world championships begin in June.

The construction company hired to complete the two projects said it will carry out a full inquiry into the two deaths.

This was the third construction-related fatality in Manaus. In March, a worker died when he fell close to five meters from a fence at the Amazônia Arena site.

There have also been accidental deaths in São Paulo and Brasilia. Last month, a crane fell, killing two workers at the Corinthians Arena, one of the major stadiums in next year’s World Cup. In June 2012, another worker fell to his death from 30 meters at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia.

The Labor Ministry said earlier this month that the crane operator in São Paulo had worked 18 consecutive days without taking a break. After the accident that killed the two workers, Fifa issued a statement saying that on-the-job safety was a “maximum priority” for the soccer federation.

Despite the increase in activity as the deadline nears, it has only been since October that reports began surfacing of the fatalities at the worksites.

Earlier this month, the Labor Ministry sought a court order to halt work at the Arena de la Bajada in Curitiba, Paraná state, where Spain is scheduled to play Argentina. The work was stopped after ministry officials detected irregularities.

Manaus was also the site of one of the most unusual incidents to take place since construction at the stadium and convention center got underway. Six workers ended up in the hospital after a swarm of bees attacked them at the Amazônia Arena on December 12, although no one was seriously injured. The stadium will host four matches, all in the first stage of the World Cup, including a faceoff between two former champions: Italy and England on June 14.

England’s coach Roy Hogdson already created a stir when he told British media earlier this month that Manaus was best avoided.

“The tropical nature of Manaus is the problem," Hodgson said before Fifa’s tournament draw had taken place. "Manaus is the place ideally to avoid and Porto Alegre is the place ideally to get. Manaus will be a difficult venue for everyone, including the Argentineans, Chileans and Colombians, but for northern European players it will be a little bit harder.”

The mayor of Manaus said he hoped England would get a coach who is “more sensible and polite.”

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