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September 21, 2014

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Unfinished overpass in World Cup project collapses

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Victor R. Caivano / AP

A truck is trapped underneath a collapsed bridge in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Thursday, July 3, 2014. The overpass under construction collapsed Thursday in the Brazilian World Cup host city.

Updated Thursday, July 3, 2014 | 3:25 p.m.

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — An overpass under construction collapsed Thursday in this World Cup host city, killing at least two people and trapping a commuter bus, two construction trucks and a car in an embarrassment for a country that has been basking in praise for what has mostly been a smoothly running soccer tournament.

At least 22 people were reported injured. There was not yet any word on whether foreign tourists were among those killed or injured.

Brazilian officials didn't think the casualty numbers would rise too sharply — though they said they had not yet reached a small passenger car that was flattened by the falling overpass. It was not known if anyone inside the car escaped or remained inside.

The incident is the biggest black eye yet for Brazil's hosting of the World Cup, which has been carried out with less chaos than many had feared.

In the run-up to the event, there were serious concerns about the ability of Brazil's airports and roads to handle the influx of tourists because of serious delays or outright cancelations of projects to improve urban transportation.

After Brazil was awarded the World Cup in 2007, politicians promised $8 billion would be spent on 56 airports, subway lines and other such projects nationwide. But less than 10 of the infrastructure projects were completed in time for the tournament, including the project where the overpass collapsed in Belo Horizonte.

It was not known what caused the overpass to fall. Cowan, the construction company responsible for building it, said investigators were on site but had not released any conclusions.

A woman who was driving a commuter bus trapped by the overpass died, said Capt. Federico Pascual of the Belo Horizonte fire department. An official in the mayor's office reported the death of a second person.

The official said 22 people were known to be injured. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media about the incident.

The overpass collapsed about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Mineirao stadium, which has hosted several World Cup matches in recent weeks and is the site of a semifinal match Tuesday.

The overpass "arched over a really busy thoroughfare," Pascual said.

Security camera footage showed heavy traffic on the street below the structure the moment that the overpass collapsed, striking vehicles below and trapping them underneath.

Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon reported this story from Sao Paulo and Victor R. Caivano reported in Belo Horizonte.

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