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article imageRio carnival to go on after gruesome accident

By Sebastian Smith (AFP)     Feb 27, 2017 in World

Rio carnival organizers insisted the show will go on with a second round of samba parades Monday after a truck carrying a float ran into bystanders, injuring 20.

The accident on the first night of the elite samba school championship occurred late Sunday when the colorful float at the tail end of the Paraiso do Tuiuti school swerved on the crowded runway, crushing people against a fence.

Eight of them, including journalists covering Rio's biggest party, were hospitalized and three remained in serious condition Monday.

Despite the drama, the Paraiso do Tuiuti parade soon continued, followed by five rival schools, lasting through the night. The next six samba schools were to parade starting late Monday.

Indigenous leaders parade with the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school on the first night of Rio C...
Indigenous leaders parade with the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school on the first night of Rio Carnival at the Sambadrome, early on February 27, 2017
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP

A champion will be announced Wednesday.

Carnival director Elmo Jose put some of the blame on journalists and bystanders who he said had strayed into the Sambodromo stadium's parade runway.

But "we will continue the show," he told reporters.

The daughter of one victim criticized organizers, saying they put entertainment ahead of safety, even delaying inspection of the truck after the accident, when it was allowed to continue on its way to finish the parade.

Revellers of the Paraiso do Tuiuti samba school perform on the first night of Rio Carnival  on Febru...
Revellers of the Paraiso do Tuiuti samba school perform on the first night of Rio Carnival, on February 26, 2017
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP

"They didn't allow it because they didn't want to hold up the parade," Rafaela Anastasia told Globo television.

"My mother was trapped against the fence and they were worried about the parade," she added. "For the love of God, it's surreal."

- Letting off steam -

A reveller performs with the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school on the first night of Rio Carniva...
A reveller performs with the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school on the first night of Rio Carnival, at the Sambadrome, early on February 27, 2017
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP

The samba parades and street parties known as "blocos," in which hundreds of thousands of people drink and dance, often in skimpy outfits, provide a huge boost to Rio's economy, attracting more than a million tourists and almost $1 billion in revenues, according to officials.

Brazilians living through two years of steep recession and nearly 13 percent unemployment have grasped this year's carnival as a chance to let off steam. In Rio especially, the thrill of hosting the Olympics six months ago has given way to the grim reality of rising crime and the state government's near bankruptcy.

But there was still room for some of Brazil's worst problems to filter through the Sambodromo's fantasy scene of near-naked dancers, feathered headdresses and pulsating rhythms.

While most schools pick politically safe themes for their parades, the Imperatriz Leopoldinense school waded into the debate over indigenous rights, agribusiness expansion into once pristine lands, and the future of the ever-threatened Amazon rainforest.

Floats on Sunday included portrayals of the jungle, indigenous musicians, piles of skulls and a giant head of a crying indigenous man, crushed by a log the size of a bus.

Members of real native tribes were joining the parade to raise awareness about their plight.

"This parade is incredibly important," said Leticia Campos, 35, who was participating in a tight green costume with bright red wings, representing the forest on fire.

"People here never pay attention to the Indians when in fact they are the masters of the rainforest and it was stolen from them."

The parade infuriated members of the powerful agribusiness sector, which is frequently accused of being a major contributor to global warming through logging and cattle ranching.

The Brazilian Association of Cattle Breeders called the parade "unacceptable." The rice industry lobby warned of "damage to the country."

At Monday night's parades, the Sao Clemente school was to portray a famous corruption scandal during the time of France's King Louis XIV -- a story that will resonate in a country where much of the political class is currently embroiled in a vast embezzlement and bribery row.

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