September 6, 1997 in Nation/World

Wind Gust Topples Wall, Awning, Kills 33 At Rally

Compiled From Wire Services

A senator was giving his speech and 3,000 party supporters were cheering and waving flags when a freak wind blew down a large metal awning and concrete wall, killing at least 33 people and injuring more than 100.

At least 17 of the injured were in serious condition, following the accident at the ruling Colorado Party’s rally at a sports arena on the outskirts of Ciudad del Este in eastern Paraguay.

“Suddenly the lights went out and the stage split in two,” said Sen. Juan Carlos Galaverna, who was giving one of the closing speeches when the powerful wind struck. “We fell to the ground. Doctors say I lost about 15 teeth and fractured my right ankle.”

“I still don’t know how I survived,” he said.

Some of the most seriously injured were transported in ambulances to the larger, neighboring city of Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. Others were flown 180 miles west to hospitals in Asuncion aboard air force planes sent by Paraguayan President Juan Carlos Wasmosy.

National Police Commander Ruben Arias said construction experts had begun an investigation of the accident.

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