* Newswire reports two dead, nearby buildings damaged
* Collapse comes months after restaurant explosion
* City to host 2014 World Cup, Olympics in 2016
* Rio struggles to address infrastructure concerns
By Pedro Fonseca and Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 25 A building
collapsed in downtown Rio de Janeiro late on
Wednesday, according to local media, in the latest incident
highlighting the failure of authorities to improve the city's
infrastructure amid preparations to host soccer's World Cup and
Newswire Agencia Estado reported at least two fatalities in
the collapse of the building, reportedly 18 storys high, and
said that two other buildings nearby had partially collapsed.
A loud explosion preceded the collapse, leaving the
surrounding area covered in debris and dust, TV Globo reported.
Police and emergency authorities said there were casualties, but
that no official count had been released.
As many as 11 people could be trapped amid the wreckage,
cable broadcaster GloboNews said. It said city authorities were
assessing the risk of collapse of an adjoining building that had
been badly damaged.
"I ran down the stairs desperate to escape. Just when I left
the building it collapsed. I escaped by the skin of my teeth -
it's the work of God," Nelson Gomes, 38, an air conditioning
technician, told iG newswire.
Gomes, who was on the 10th floor, said he rushed to the
stairwell after hearing a "huge noise."
TV images showed cars covered with concrete and steel rods.
Light, the electricity distribution company serving Rio de
Janeiro, cut power to the area to avert the possibility of fires
after a strong smell of gas was detected, both TV broadcasters
Rio de Janeiro is struggling to address concerns over poor
infrastructure as it prepares to co-host the soccer World Cup in
2014 and the Olympic Games two years later.
The incident comes months after an explosion apparently
caused by a gas leak ripped through a restaurant in downtown
Rio, killing three people and igniting concerns over the state
of the city's infrastructure.
In recent months, Rio inhabitants have had to deal with
unexpected explosions of sewer lines and landslides in some city
slums caused by heavy rain and deforestation.
The building, which housed a bakery and an Itau Unibanco
Holding bank branch, was located near the
headquarters of state-controlled companies including oil
producer Petrobras and development bank BNDES
Traffic in the area and service in neighboring subway
stations have been suspended, both channels reported.
(Writing By Asher Levine and Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by