RIO DE JANEIRO – More than 100 abandoned buildings in Rio de Janeiro are in suchpoor condition they are at risk of collapsing, the head of aregional engineering agency said Wednesday, a day after part of atwo-story building crumbled in the Olympic city's colonialdowntown. No one was injured in Tuesday's incident, but it was a chillingreminder of the January collapse of three other downtown buildings,which left 17 people dead and five missing and raised questionsabout Rio's readiness to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Agostinho Guerreiro, president of Crea, a public entityrepresenting members of the engineering profession, urgedauthorities here to act before other buildings tumble down. "These buildings aren't necessarily going to fall down next week ornext month — I don't want to cause public panic — butthese 100 or so buildings are definitely in bad enough shape thataction is required," Guerreiro told The Associated Press. "We needa public planning strategy that takes these buildings into accountand takes concrete steps to preserve them." About half the at-risk buildings are rambling bourgeois homes fromthe turn of the 20th century or even earlier, while about 20 werebuilt as recently as the 1980s and abandoned because of money,legal or other problems, he said. |
He said that like the buildings in the Tuesday and Januaryincidents, most of the at-risk structures are concentrated in thehistoric downtown, where gutted, once-grand bourgeois homes arewedged between modern towers. Other areas of concern are the neighborhood around the legendaryMaracana soccer stadium, where the World Cup final is to be held,and the popular nightlife hotspot Lapa, he said. But he added thatvast renovation projects under way in and around Maracana shouldmake any risk negligible for the soccer tournament, while bar andnightclub owners' renovation of many old buildings in Lapa hadsubstantially reduced the risk in that area. Guerreiro said his statistics were based on an exhaustive 2003study, updated with the findings of the agency's inspectors as theyvisit building sites to certify the presence a qualified engineer.Crea does not have the right to order its own building inspections,he said. After the January tragedy, some critics lashed out at what theycalled a lack of oversight by local authorities, saying it createsa culture of impunity that leads to accidents.
Guerreiro pointed to the private sector, which is largely behindthe renaissance in Lapa, as a possible solution to the dangerouslydilapidated buildings. "Happily, the technology is at a point where most of thesebuildings could be fully recuperated, especially if there's anentrepreneur who'd continue to invest in their maintenance," hesaid.
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