Access to Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue closed due to heavy rains

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rio’s Christ the Redeemer closed after rains

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue will be closed indefinitely because of damage to access roads from heavy rains last week, authorities said Tuesday.

Workers are laboring to remove dirt, trees, rocks and other debris obstructing roads after flooding and mudslides last week in Tijuca National Park, where the statue stands on a mountaintop.

The city said the work could take as long as six months, though access could be restored much sooner.

“We believe visitors will be able to return within one or two months,” Bernardo Issa, director of the Tijuca National Park, said in a statement. “We do not have a timeline yet though, this has not been defined.”

A trolley line that carries tourists to the statue was shut down Sunday because of the threat of more mudslides.

The Christ the Redeemer statue is a top tourist draw and was named one of the world’s seven new wonders in 2007.

Tourists visiting Rio were disappointed, but took the news of the closure for the must-visit attraction in stride.

“It’s unfortunate, but there is not really much you can do about the rain and the weather. Pity we are only here for a week, so we won’t get to see it. Oh well, there are plenty of postcards out there we can use,” said Javi Perotti, visiting from Australia.

Firefighters said Tuesday that 247 people died in last week’s flooding and slides in and around Rio caused by torrential rains. The flooding has prompted authorities to begin demolishing homes built on steep hillsides and evicting residents.

Issa said flooding in 1996 also forced authorities to halt visits to the statue, but the current closure will be the longest on record.

The statue, designed by French sculptor Paul Landowski, was inaugurated in 1931. A privately sponsored renovation project began last month, which has left the statue surrounded by scaffolding.

Associated Press Writer Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

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