‘It felt like an earthquake’

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IOL pic july4 brazil highway overpass collapse crushed bus Reuters Rescue workers inspect a bus trapped underneath a highway overpass that collapsed while under construction in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. PIcture: Leo Fontes, O Tempo

Belo Horizonte, Brazil - An unfinished highway overpass being built for the World Cup in Brazil collapsed on Thursday in the city due to hold a semifinal match, killing at least two people and injuring 19.

The tragedy in Belo Horizonte turned the fervour gripping the nation as it prepared for quarterfinals on Friday to mourning.

Large-screen TV public gatherings to watch the game on Friday against Colombia in another city, Fortaleza, were scratched. President Dilma Rousseff expressed sadness over the accident.

Globo television footage showed the front of a yellow bus crushed under a large stretch of the fallen highway, which is about five kilometres from the south-eastern city's World Cup stadium and was being built as part of delayed infrastructure improvements for the world's premier sporting event.

“It was like an earthquake. The ground shook violently,” Daniel Magalhaes, who was near the site at the time of the accident, told Globo. “I heard a deafening sound. I looked and saw the collapsed overpass.”

Two people were killed and 19 injured, the mayor's office said. One of the fatalities was the bus driver. Three other vehicles, two trucks and a car, were also hit.

IOL pic july4 brazil overpass collapse on bus Rescue workers try to reach vehicles trapped underneath a bridge that collapsed while under construction in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Picture: Carlos Greco Reuters

The unfinished project was part of Brazil's frenzied and not completely successful rush to get infrastructure ready for the World Cup. Some stadiums were incomplete when games started.

Over the past year the $11-billion price tag for staging the Cup angered Brazilians who took to the streets, clamouring that so much money might be better spent to improve things like schools and hospitals.

Brazil will also host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The overpass had been due to carry an express bus service through the city. After the delay, it had been due to be completed at the end of July.

Belo Horizonte will host a semi-final match on Tuesday between the winners of the Brazil-Colombia and France-Germany games. The latter is also to be played on Friday.

A spokesman for the fire service said 13 people were rescued from the bus unscathed.

It was not immediately known how many people were inside the car that was crushed, firefighter spokesman Edgard Estevo da Silva told reporters.

“The vehicle is completely under the overpass,” he said.

The two trucks that were hit were empty at the time Silva said.

A total of 14 firefighting teams were at the scene.

Rousseff expressed “sadness” on Twitter.

“In this time of pain, I express my solidarity with the families of the victims,” she wrote.

The structure, which was begun last year, is in the Sao Joao Batista district of the city.

“The overpass was in the final stages of construction and they were taking down the scaffolding when the accident happened,” a fire brigade spokesman told AFP.

Belo Horizonte's Mineirao Stadium has hosted five World Cup matches so far.

The Brazil World Cup has been dogged by delays to stadiums and infrastructure, and there were several accidents during construction of the stadiums.

Three days before the World Cup began on June 12, another accident in Brazil's business hub, Sao Paulo, killed one worker and injured two when an unfinished monorail collapsed. - AFP

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