Rio de Janeiro knows it must modernise and prepare for the Olympics in 2016.

It has started well but it’s a mammoth task. Politicians abandoned the city for decades and there was very little investment in infrastructure.

A perfect example is the city’s sewer system. Not only can it not cope with the heavy rains that fall each year, the electric cables running underground are now causing manhole covers to blow out.


The idea of a city beseiged by flying bits of metal sounds comical but it is a serious issue. More than 60 have exploded since last year, and many people have been hurt, by shattered glass, blasts of fire or hot air, and by the flying iron saucers themselves.

Here’s the start of my piece in the Christian Science Monitor:

Another day in Rio de Janeiro. Another manhole cover exploding into the sky, flattening cars, breaking windows, sending people scampering for safety.

Yes, while Rio de Janeiro is a city that instinctively draws people to gaze into the distance at the beach, the statue of Christ on Corcovad hill, and the curves of Sugarloaf mountain, it is also now a city where people glance to the ground, suspiciously eyeing those heavy iron manhole covers, wondering if that one there in front of them might be the next one to blow.