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Jun 17, 2014

Stairs to Maracana concern fans

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Video of a staircase most people use to get to and from Rio's famed Maracana stadium shows the structure built atop scaffolding wobbling under the weight of fans who attended the World Cup game between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina over the weekend.

Fans of various nationalities said Tuesday that they were scared it might come crashing down.

The footage shot by a Brazilian photographer -- broadcast by the BBC -- showed people packed on the staircase of wooden steps as it swayed, grabbing hand rails to support themselves as they headed via their only exit to a concrete ramp leading to a subway station after the game.

"When people walk on it the wood moves, so with thousands of people walking up there, there could be an accident," said Jorge Martinez, a Mexican systems engineer who used the stairs to leave Sunday night's game.

The Rio de Janeiro state government issued a statement saying the staircase was inspected following complaints, reinforced and then re-inspected again Tuesday to ensure fan safety.

But fans who used it when it wobbled questioned why a more permanent staircase wasn't constructed out of concrete to ensure their safety. On the other side of Maracana, a separate entrance for VIPs is all concrete, Juan Miranda of Chile said as he sat on the wooden staircase trying to buy tickets for Wednesday's game between Chile and Spain. He said he saw construction workers soldering the scaffolding holding up the wooden staircase Tuesday morning.

"You can see that VIP ramp and it's real good, but over here where almost everyone goes in, the entrance and exit is defective and unsafe," said Miranda, an electrician. "There isn't even any information about its capacity. Tomorrow there's going to be a sea of people here so I'm going to arrive early to be safe."

Maracana has six seating sections and all but one require fans leaving the subway to cross a lengthy concrete ramp and then descend via the staircase about two flights to the ground so they can enter the stadium. When fans leave, they have to repeat the journey by getting to the ramp from the staircase.

The video was shot by Paula Kossatz, who was taking pictures and video of protests outside the stadium during the game and climbed the stairs to the ramp to get footage from a higher location. She then trained her camera on the wobbly staircase as thousands of fans emerged from the stadium, with hundreds at a time heading up the staircase.

Dipendu Biswas, a banker from India, said the staircase "was shaking the whole time" when he went up it after the game.

Biswas said he was scared it might fall under the weight of fans but said it was the only bad infrastructure experience he's had at the World Cup after seeing games in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

"It's the only defect I've seen so far," he said.

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