Officers from two fire stations and an airborne operations team were called into action on Thursday morning after several cyclists fell into the sea, a fire official said.
“The structure collapsed and two male bodies were rescued from the sea. The search operation is still under way,” he said in a phone interview.
The 50-meter long lane that collapsed skirted the Atlantic coast. It was part of a more than 3 kilometre-long cycle lane opened in January in an urban regeneration project to spruce up the city for the Olympiad from Aug. 5-21.
The incident occurred just hours after the Olympic torch was lit in Greece, from where it journeys to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro’s mayor Eduardo Paes is returning to Brazil from the torch lighting ceremony to follow an investigation of the incident, his office said, calling the collapse “unpardonable.”
A spokeswoman for Concremat, the company that built the bike lane through its consortium Contemat-Concrejato, said it had a technical team evaluating the causes of the accident and attending to the victims’ families.
The company was founded by Mauro Ribeiro Viegas, who several local newspapers said was grandfather of the city of Rio de Janeiro’s secretary of tourism Antônio Pedro Viegas Figueira de Mello.
Video footage shot by Rio residents and posted online showed massive waves crashing up the sea wall and into the new structure.
Rio will be the first South American city ever to host the Olympics but is struggling with its biggest recession in almost a century and a political crisis that could lead to the ouster of the president.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Richard Chang)