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Rio's Giant Christ Statue Damaged by Lightning

Repairs will begin on Christ the Redeemer's fingers and head

smithsonian.com

Last Thursday, lightning struck Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, breaking off a piece of the right thumb and damaging the head. The event, captured in the perfectly timed video above, occurred during a three-hour electrical storm, one of the most violent in the country's record, with 1,109 lightning strikes within the city limits.

According to the National Institute for Space Research, the statue, perched atop Rio’s 2,300-foot-tall Mt. Corcovado, sustains an average of three to five mostly harmless strikes each year. "They say lightning does not strike the same spot twice. But with the Christ it does,” joked Father Omar Raposo of the Archdiocese of Rio, the organization that maintains the statue, in an radio interview. Luckily, Raposo said, the church keeps a stash of the original soapstone used to create the statue for just such occasions, and repairs will begin as soon as this week.

Clezio Dutra, the engineer who oversees the 125-foot-tall statue, told O Globo that while several lightning rods are already in place, parts of the head and hands are vulnerable, adding a project has already been approved to extend the rods. Tourists can expect to see workmen repelling from the structure over the next four months, he said, as these repairs are added to previously schedule maintenance activities.

The statue was erected in 1931 and elected one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. It draws nearly two million visitors a year, and numbers are expected to spike this summer as people stream in for the World Cup. It's perfectly safe: according to Father Raposo said, the site’s caretakers receive early warnings from city officials about incoming storms and close the monument when needed.

Christ the Redeemer in Rio
Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue in better weather. Photo: Terry George.
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