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It is said that you can gauge a thriving economy by the number of cranes on the skyline. If that’s true, Sao Paulo is booming. Everywhere you look, you see massive cranes looming like giant creatures guarding the net-encased building below.

Within our veranda view, some seven buildings have risen since we arrived. So much building! and yet, we wonder how many safety precautions. You rarely see men wearing hardhats, except on the massive construction sites (building and metro). Certainly on the smaller sites, there are no hardhats, and sometimes just flimsy boards to keep out trespassers or wanderers. And metal scaffolding seems not to have made its way down here yet. Neither has proper reinforcement, apparently.

Last week, a wall fell onto a sidewalk in the neighborhood of Liberdade here in Sao Paulo. During the after-work rush hour. One person was killed. Tragic, but it could have been even worse.

It turns out that the building had been hollowed out in a remodel project to turn the building into a parking structure. But even though the interior of the building had been removed, and a deep hole excavated into the subbasement, there were no support structures erected to keep the outside walls upright. Not a single support. It’s no wonder the wall fell. (photos from Band News TV report)

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The project engineer says he suspects water damage caused the wall to fall, whether rain or sewer, he’s not sure. Do you think? Look at the images: fallen bricks, and nothing else.

A similar tragedy occurred this past December when a wall fell and killed eight people, including a child. The building was an abandoned warehouse that was being remodeled. I suspect there were no support structures on that wall, either.

It appears that there are very few construction laws here in Sao Paulo. Or, if the laws exist, they certainly don’t appear to be enforced in any way. As we drive, I take photos of the various construction projects I see in the city. The large, ultra-modern high rises seem to have safety rules enforced, but I’m no expert. Perhaps someone who is expert will see gaping holes in the safety precautions. (I prefer not to dwell on how well our building is constructed. I guess I’ll think about it as we tumble down 24 floors amid an avalanche of concrete and bricks.)

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But I’m expert enough to know that most of the individual home construction projects are not following any safety codes. I’ve attached numerous photos here to illustrate my contention. Notice the lack of rebar and the use of small timbers in lieu of scaffolding and support. In the collapsed houses, notice again the lack of rebar to support the concrete and brick blocks that had been stacked to build the walls.

Utterly amazing.