Fan dies at Taylor Swift concert in Rio’s extreme heat
By Jack Nicas, Leonardo Coelho and Flávia Milhorance
One fan died and many others fainted at Taylor Swift’s concert Friday in Rio de Janeiro, where temperatures felt like nearly 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for the city, and fans said they struggled to get water.
Ana Clara Benevides, 23, lost consciousness at the concert and later was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest after being taken to the hospital, according to city officials and the Brazilian company organizing the show, Time for Fun.
There were widespread complaints about the extreme heat and lack of water from fans inside the open-air soccer stadium, where Swift was performing for more than 60,000 people in the first of three sold-out shows in Rio this weekend as part of the South American stretch of her record-breaking Eras Tour.
Hours before she was set to take the stage Saturday night, Swift announced on social media that the show was being postponed because of the extreme temperatures in Rio.
“The safety and well-being of my fans, fellow performers and crew has to and always will come first,” she wrote.
Swift’s fans said on social media they were prohibited from bringing water into the stadium Friday, while other fans said vendors struggled to reach the people near the stage. Videos showed Swift throwing a water bottle to one fan and instructing stadium staff to get water to others as people in the crowd chanted for water.
The tragedy paired two of the year’s major storylines: rising temperatures and the hysteria for Swift’s global tour.
In Argentina, where Swift played this month, some fans camped out for more than five months to try to get a spot closer to the stage. In Brazil, a day after Benevides’ death, fans lined up early for entry to Saturday’s show even as temperatures continued to soar. It is the second show Swift has had to postpone because of extreme weather recently — her Nov. 10 show in Buenos Aires was moved to Nov. 12.
In an online post, Swift said she was “devastated” by her fan’s death. “I’m not going to be able to speak about this from stage because I feel overwhelmed by grief when I even try to talk about it,” she said.
Wadih Damous, head of Brazil’s consumer protection agency, said his agency had ordered the concert’s organizers to provide free water at various locations at Swift’s shows on Saturday and Sunday.
“The decision to prevent thousands of people from drinking water in 60-degree Celsius heat is insane and irresponsible,” Damous said. He said the government would investigate Time for Fun.
The company said Saturday that it would add staff, provide free water and allow fans to enter the stadium with water and food.
Parts of Brazil have been suffering under a sweltering heat wave this week, with temperatures breaking records and the national meteorological institute issuing safety alerts to 15 states. In Rio, temperatures surpassed 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) on Friday. The heat index, a measure of how hot the air feels because of humidity, hit 139 degrees, a record for the city.
It appears almost certain that 2023 will be Earth’s hottest year on record, with global temperatures hitting record highs in each of the past five months, from June through October. Scientists have said that the year’s record heat has been driven by the continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, mostly from the burning of oil, gas and coal, as well as the return of El Nino, a cyclical weather pattern.
Brazilian government institutions have said that since June, El Nino has changed the region’s weather patterns, increasing temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near South America by 3 degrees Celsius, while bringing more rain to the south and droughts to the north.
Felipe Galvão, 28, a systems analyst, was on the field level near the stage Friday when people started getting sick from the heat even before the concert started. By the time the show began, so many people had gotten sick and left their places that he was able to reach the railing along the stage.
“I’ve been going to concerts since 2011, but I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he said. “There was little staff and unfortunately, they couldn’t do much for the fans. You could tell that even they were a little lost.”