Rio airport swelters as AC fails during heat wave

AP News
Posted: Jan 03, 2014 3:59 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Passengers sweltered Friday without air conditioning in parts of Rio de Janeiro's Antonio Carlos Jobim international airport with temperatures outside hovering around 40C (104F).

A spokeswoman for Infraero, which oversees Brazil's airport infrastructure, acknowledged the air conditioning was off in a part of the facility because of ongoing construction at Rio's largest airport. She said it would remain off in that area into February, the height of South America's summer.

Brazil's shoddy airports are a major worry heading into the World Cup in just over five months with many overhauls delayed or scrapped. About 500,000 foreign visitors are expected, stretching airport capacity at 12 venues across the continent-size country.

"It's clear that on a day like today, when the heat index is 50 degrees Celsius (122F), that it's impossible to keep the heat out," said the Infraero spokeswoman, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity under department policy. "People are constantly coming in and out, the doors are constantly opening."

Airport capacity and delays in completing 12 stadiums are major worries with football fans facing flight delays and likely confusion around just-completed venues. Many say that last-minute airport renovations will not eliminate operations problems across the system.

Earlier this week, heavy rains leaked through the roof of Rio's international airport, forming large pools on the tile floors. Globo television network broadcast images of a salesclerk inside an airport shop using an umbrella to keep dry while passengers dragged luggage around pools of water.

Brazil officials have insisted the country will be able to handle the crush of visitors when the World Cup opens June 12 in Sao Paulo, and closes July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.

Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has repeatedly said Brazil will be ready, and Civil Aviation Secretary Wellington Moreira Franco told The Associated Press in a recent interview that Brazil had decided against opening more routes for foreign air carriers.

Brazil has limited rail service, the road network is underdeveloped and crowded, and flying will be the only alternative for most traveling around the 12 host cities.

Flight delays and half-finished stadiums would be an embarrassment for Brazil, with aspirations to use the World Cup to elevate its standing on the global stage, and personally for President Dilma Rousseff, who is up for re-election in October.

She could also face public anger over billions being spent on the World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.


Associated Press writer Stephen Wade in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.