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Part of New Bicycle Path Collapses in Rio de Janeiro Leaving Two Deaths

04/22/2016 - 08h59

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FROM RIO DE JANEIRO

The Rio Fire Department says two people died on Thursday, April 21, after a part of the recently inaugurated bicycle path on Niemeyer avenue, in the south zone of Rio de Janeiro, collapsed.

The bike path was named after Brazilian singer Tim Maia and is located between Niemeyer avenue and a cliff, hanging over the sea. The path is a connection between Leblon beach and the seafront of São Conrado neighborhood, both in the city's south zone. The bike path had been inaugurated earlier this year, on January 17, and cost R$ 44.7 million.

Ricardo Borges/Folhapress
The path is a connection between Leblon beach and the seafront of São Conrado neighborhood
The path is a connection between Leblon beach and the seafront of São Conrado neighborhood

The part that collapsed has some 50 meters - the path's total distance is 3.9 kilometers. The plan of the Rio de Janeiro City Hall was to connect the city center to Grumari, in the west zone, through bicycle paths along the seafront before the beginning of the Olympic Games, in August. The new part was an addition to the city's cycleways which had a total of 435 kilometers before the new addition. Rio City Hall intends to reach 450 kilometers before the Olympics.

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, said he lamented the accident involving the bike path. "What happened is unforgivable, and I have already ordered the facts to be investigated and I am returning to Brazil to follow the unfoldings closely," said Paes. He was in Greece and cancelled his participation in the Olympic Torch ceremony to return to Rio de Janeiro.

"Fifteen seconds saved my life," consultant Guilherme Miranda, 42, said after the bike path collapsed. He is a resident of São Conrado, and began to use the path to go to work after it was inaugurated. On the day of the accident, he had just passed the part when he saw the structure collapse. "I saw three people falling into the ocean," he said.

The municipal construction secretary of the Rio de Janeiro City Hall, Alexandre Pinto da Silva, said that it is not possible to say if there was an error in the path's project. "Actually, every undertow is forecasted, but we have to check the conditions of the site and investigate the causes of the accident," says Silva.

Secretary Silva also recognized that undertows like the last are common in that area and this type of impact "must be forecasted." Silva also said that the construction of the path was authorized by Geo-Rio, an agency of the Municipal Construction Administrative Office, which is responsible for hillside containment.

The government secretary of the Rio de Janeiro City Hall, Pedro Paulo Carvalho, also mentioned the strong undertow. "It is an unacceptable disaster. It was the result of a strong undertow – a wave hit the path from below."

Carvalho then said that the accident must be investigated and an expert's report must be prepared to determine the causes of the accident. "We need an evaluation so that we can get the right information on what made the path collapse. Anything we say at this moment will be speculation," said Carvalho.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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