Thu, Jan 18, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Rescue crews retrieve one body in subway collapse


Rescue crews on Tuesday reached a minibus entombed under tonnes of earth and rubble following the collapse of a subway station construction site and removed one of the four bodies believed to be trapped inside the vehicle.

Five days after the collapse, rescuers retrieved the body of a woman through the minibus' shattered rear window "using their hands and shovels to pry her lose from the earth and debris that filled the vehicle," a spokesman for the Sao Paulo State Public Security Department said by telephone.

He declined to give his name because of departmental policy.

Most of the bus was crushed and rescuers were unable to see the other three bodies believed to be inside "because of all the earth inside the vehicle," he added.

TV footage showed seven rescue workers carrying the woman's body on a stretcher.

The Sao Paulo state govern-ment's Web site identified the woman as 37-year-old Valeria Marmit, an attorney with three children.

Rescue workers had spotted her body on Monday but were unable to retrieve it at the time.

Also on Monday, rescue crews aided by sniffer dogs found and retrieved the body of 75-year-old Abigail Rossi de Azevedo, who was walking near the site when it collapsed, burying at least seven people in a huge crater.

Besides the four occupants of the minibus, a truck driver and a pedestrian -- whose families say they have been missing since Friday -- are also feared buried.

Earlier on Tuesday, subway workers demanded an immediate halt to construction of the US$1.4 billion subway line in South America's largest city.

Construction companies blamed excessive rain for Friday's collapse at the construction site in Sao Paulo, Brazil's business and financial powerhouse and home to 18 million.

But Alberto Goldman, Sao Paulo state's deputy governor, said he believed a "major engineering flaw" also helped produce the crater, which swallowed dump trucks, ripped apart subterranean concrete walls and damaged several nearby homes that must now be torn down.

Manoel Xavier Lemos, a director of the Sao Paulo Subway Workers' Union, said construction at all 11 stops on the 13km long "Yellow Line" should be stopped for a full investigation into the project's safety.

He said at least 10 other accidents have occurred during construction of the new subway line, begun in late 2004, but Friday's collapse was the worst in the system's 32-year history.

"We want to be sure that no one else will become the victim of a similar accident," Lemos said.

He also said the state-run subway company's own technicians should take over the project from a consortium of private construction companies.

The subway company's workers "seek the best solution for all engineering problems, even if that means higher construction costs," Lemos said. "Their main concerns are safety and durability. They do not think about cutting costs or getting the job as fast as possible."

The Via Amarela Consortium did not address the call to halt the project and said in a statement: "Our priority is to continue to help in the search for the missing and to attend to the affected families."

The Yellow Line, which would become Sao Paulo's fifth subway line, is scheduled for completion in 2012.

Relatives of those believed to have been killed in the accident said they had given up hope that their loved ones were alive.

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