RIO DE JANEIRO – The spectacular Carnival parade of Rio’s top samba troupes was marred by the injury of 20 people who where pushed against a wall by a faulty float at the start of the famed Sambadrome show, organizers said on Monday.
The accident did not stop the all night parade by six of the city’s elite samba schools that spend millions each year to compete for the title of champion by parading down a 700-meter avenue with thousands of dancers driven by powerful drum sections.
The massive three-ton float of the Paraiso de Tuiuti samba group carrying costumed dancers on platforms veered out of control as it turned into the parade ground at the start of event on Sunday night. As its handlers tried to straighten the float it swung into a group of spectators.
Organizers said 20 people where hurt and eight were taken to hospital, three of them with serious injuries. One woman had two legs broken and was still in hospital.
An initial investigation said the float had a mechanical problem, the organizers said.
Hundreds of thousands danced and sang in the streets of Rio over the weekend in block parties in the annual pre lenten bacchanalia that drew over 1 million tourists to the city.
The Carnival festivities provide Brazilians with a welcome escape from the reality of a two-year recession, record unemployment, a sprawling political corruption scandal and mounting crime in a city that hosted the Olympics last August.
Environmental concerns and cultural preservation themes predominated in the floats and costumes of the samba schools that paraded before 200,000 paying Sambadrome spectators through the early hours of Monday.
Imperatriz Leopoldinense, one of Rio’s traditional samba schools, honored the Amazon and its native tribes with a parade featuring six giant floats and 2,800 dancers, musicians and other costumed celebrants, including indigenous leaders invited to join the parade.
The show called “The Clamor that Comes from the Forest,” highlighted the tension between development and conservation in Brazil, where an expanding agricultural frontier threatens the world’s largest rainforest.
The Carnival theme outraged Brazil’s powerful farm lobby that denies destroying the rainforest and sees itself as the most successful sector of Brazil’s economy.
Singing lyrics that lamented the “bleeding heart of Brazil” and the “riches that greed destroys,” participants wore vests with skulls and crossbones and pretend to spray pesticide. Others will wield toy chainsaws and bundles of felled timber.