Tue, Jan 16, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Unstable ground hampers Sao Paulo rescue efforts


Rescue crews working underground burrowed close to a minibus trapped under tonnes of earth and rubble following the collapse of a subway station construction site, but were forced to retreat because of unstable ground, officials said.

Aided by dogs sniffing for the passengers, rescuers found the vehicle but turn backed late on Sunday because officials feared the ground might again give way, burying them, Sao Paulo State Governor Jose Serra said.

Authorities then decided to take a different approach to the bus, entombed under rubble and dirt after the concrete walls of a huge hole being excavated for the station fell apart on Friday.

Effort were complicated by large chunks of concrete that prevented rescuers from going deeper into the crater where as many as many as seven people are buried, including four in the minibus.

Witnesses reported the minibus was carrying a driver, fare collector and two passengers when it fell into the crater, said a spokesman for Sao Paulo's subway system. Two pedestrians and a truck driver may also be buried.

"We are working under the assumption that there may be at least seven people trapped underneath the rubble," Davanco said.

Authorities said they still hoped to find survivors more than 48 hours after the collapse at the construction site next to one of Sao Paulo's busiest highways.

"It is possible that an air pocket buttressed by a beam or something else may have been created," Colonel Joao dos Santos of Sao Paulo's fire department said.

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