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Commuter chaos as subway strike hits World Cup city

An open-ended subway strike in Sao Paulo on Thursday caused chaos and mammoth congestion in Brazil's business hub and World Cup opening venue just a week before kick-off.

SAO PAULO: An open-ended subway strike in Sao Paulo on Thursday caused chaos and mammoth congestion in Brazil's business hub and World Cup opening venue just a week before kick-off.

Record bumper-to-bumper traffic stretched for 209 kilometres (135 miles) around 10am (1300 GMT) as frustrated commuters tried to battle through the worst rush hour gridlock so far this year.

The Sao Paulo subway, used by 4.5 million people daily, is the main transportation link to the economic capital's World Cup host stadium that is set to host the opening match between Brazil and Croatia next Thursday.

A subway employee told AFP that three of the city's five subway lines were seeing disrupted service.

In the early morning hours, frustrated commuters broke entrance bars at the Itaquera station near the stadium, the Estado de Sao Paulo daily reported.

"I've come in from Sao Bernardo dos Campos (in the suburbs) and now I don't know how I am going to reach my destination," said 19-year-old Andre Luiz Diaz.

Milene Moreira, 40, complained: "I'm heading for work and already late. I'll have to walk or take the bus but I don't know how to get there without the subway."

Sao Paulo was where mass protests started this time last year as citizens took to the streets to express anger at rising transportation fares.

The unrest spread nationwide as more than a million Brazilians marched against the hikes and the cost of the World Cup, put at around $11 billion.

More demonstrations are expected during the month-long tournament that runs through July 13.

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