SAO PAULO, (Reuters) – An electrical accident at a World Cup stadium killed a worker in the Brazilian city of Cuiaba yesterday, temporarily halting construction and adding to setbacks in the rushed preparations for the tournament.
Muhammad-Ali Maciel Afonso, 32, was the eighth worker to die at one of Brazil’s twelve World Cup arenas. He was working for Etel Engenharia to install a communications network, according to a state government official and an executive at the company.
The 2014 World Cup, the first to be held in Brazil since 1950, has been beset by delays, cost overruns and broken promises. In addition to the late delivery of stadiums, three of which are still not ready, several key public transportation projects have been scaled back or abandoned altogether.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and Brazil’s sports minister Aldo Rebelo expressed their condolences to Afonso’s family and colleagues in statements.
The Arena Pantanal in the western city of Cuiaba is one of the most delayed stadiums being built for the tournament, which starts June 12.
The unfinished stadium held a test match last month, but workers are still adding seats, wiring and other final touches. An October fire caused structural damage at the stadium that has since been repaired.
Telecom networks are among the most delayed elements of half a dozen World Cup arenas, including Cuiaba, with industry groups scrambling to set up wifi and cell coverage in as little as half the time they requested.
Cuiaba’s stadium is one of several that critics warn may become white elephants after the World Cup. The Arena Pantanal will have more than 40,000 seats, but the city’s biggest soccer team usually plays to crowds of less than 2,000.
The Arena Pantanal will host four matches in the tournament: Chile vs Australia, Russia vs South Korea, Nigeria vs Bosnia and Japan vs Colombia.
Work on the stadium was halted pending a police investigation into the accident.
Fatal accidents have also occurred at arenas in the capital Brasilia, the Amazonian city of Manaus and the opening venue in Sao Paulo, which President Dilma Rousseff toured yesterday.
Two workers lost their lives building stadiums for the World Cup hosted in South Africa four years ago.
Construction of the new Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo has sparked protests from families who say they have been pushed out of their neighborhood by the project.
Before touring the stadium yesterday, Rousseff met with representatives of more than 2,000 families squatting on private land two miles south of the arena.
The squatters say its construction has driven up real estate values. Rousseff promised them access to the government’s low-cost housing program, according to a presidential aide.