Rio's New Tourist Attraction: Exploding Manhole Covers

July 20, 2011

Rio de Janeiro has had many attractions for tourists.  Great food, beautiful women, huge parties, large numbers of slums...well, maybe not the last one.  Add to that the fact that, at any moment, an action movie can suddenly break out, thanks to exploding manhole covers.

 So far, more than 60 of the heavy chunks of iron have blown their lids.  The most recent one injured two people, smashed a window, and took a motorcycle off the road for good.  Citizens are keeping an eye on the ground, just waiting for the next one to go up.

 Why are manhole covers flying into the air like the wildest dreams of Michael Bay?  Simple, really: Rio's sewer and power systems are more than 60 years old, and haven't been well maintained.  So, as the sewage, how do we put this, decays, it gives off all sorts of noxious, flammable gases.  And, since the city's power transformers are underground, and regularly giving off sparks, it's generally only a matter of time before another manhole cover takes flight.

 So, just how many manholes are ready to pop?  According to Rio's power and sewer authority, only about 130.  According to everybody else, the answer is more like 4,000.  This is particularly problematic because Rio is hosting both the 2014 World Cup Final and the 2016 Summer Olympics.  We're hoping that they hold off on a few repairs: we really want to see a massive column of fire erupting from a sewer light the Olympic flame.

Source: Kogi Nagahama/Getty Images News/Getty Images