Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo downplayed the severity of the
October 25 fire at Cuiabá's Arena Pantanal, which he described as
"small," but he acknowledged that prosecutors in Mato Grosso state,
where the stadium is located, have demanded a new, independent
evaluation of its safety following the report of structural damage
The state government gave reporters a tour on Monday of the area
where the fire hit, and no signs of damage were apparent.
An independent consultant was also due to visit the Cuiabá stadium
on Monday and report his findings back to Brazilian officials and
FIFA, soccer's governing body, which has said it was unaware of any
structural damage caused by the fire.
Prosecutors have said they will not allow games to be played at the
stadium until they are certain it is structurally sound. A test
match between Brazilian soccer teams is slated for early April,
while the first World Cup match to be played in Cuiabá is set for
June 13, between Chile and Australia.
"We recommended to the (stadium's) owner, which is the state
government, and the companies building it that they adopt all
measures so that the stadium can be ready" for the World Cup, Rebelo
told reporters, without offering further details.
His comments, the first by a senior federal official since Reuters
disclosed the contents of the prosecutors' report on Saturday, came
at a news conference in Brasilia with FIFA's secretary general,
Valcke deferred a question about the stadium to Rebelo.
The questions over the Cuiabá stadium have added to Brazil's
struggles to get ready for the World Cup, which starts on June 12.
Stadiums have been plagued by construction delays and accidents that
have killed six workers.
FIFA is expected to announce this week whether another stadium, in
the southern city of Curitiba, will be dropped from the tournament
because of construction delays there.
The 18-page report on Cuiabá's stadium by the Mato Grosso state
Public Ministry, an independent judicial body similar to the
district attorney's office in the United States, was prepared in
December but had not previously been disclosed to the public.
The Mato Grosso state government has repeatedly denied that the fire
caused structural problems and said on Sunday that the damage has
since been fixed.
Mauricio Guimarăes, the state official overseeing the stadium's
construction, said last week that no reports have shown structural
damage. Prosecutors have said, in turn, that the state government
"lacks credibility" because it continues to downplay the
consequences of the fire.
[to top of second column]
On Monday, Guimarăes said the stadium's structure was sound. And
when asked to explain why the state prosecutor's report was
different from his own finding, he said there may have been a
"communication problem" with the Public Ministry that led to the
differing accounts of the fire.
ANOTHER INSPECTION ON THURSDAY
On Monday, Reuters obtained previously undisclosed color photos from
the Public Ministry's report. The photos show decomposed concrete
and other damage to pillars that form the arena's core structure,
according to the report's text.
Reuters previously had access to a printed black-and-white version,
in which the photos did not show the damage as clearly.
"The photos in our report clearly illustrate that the (state)
government is wrong when it says the fire did not cause structural
damage to the stadium," said Clovis de Almeida, part of a special
unit of Public Ministry prosecutors monitoring the state
government's preparations for the World Cup.
The fire occurred in the basement level of one of the two main
grandstands at the Arena Pantanal, which remains under construction.
Cuiabá is the state capital of Mato Grosso in Brazil's soy belt and
is one of 12 cities where games are scheduled to take place.
The Public Ministry's report includes a photo showing widespread
chipping of a concrete pillar that is part of the "core structure in
the area affected by the fire," according to an accompanying text
written by an independent local civil engineer.
Another photo on the same page, which the report says is of a
"wall/beam in the core structure," shows "the exposed rebar due to
advanced decomposition of the concrete."
"It is emphasized that the loss of resistance of these elements
could compromise the overall stability of the construction," the
It also includes a diagram showing that the "area most affected by
the fire" includes nearly half the stadium's basement level,
including three of the building's six main support beams.
The report says the damage to the stadium's steel structure is "less
severe" and "does not compromise the building's overall stability."
The Public Ministry is scheduled to undertake its own independent
inspection of the fire site on Thursday. Federal prosecutors said
last week they would be launching their own investigation of the
fire based on the state body's findings.
(Additional reporting by Jeferson Ribeiro in Brasilia;
Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and Cynthia Osterman)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.