'Pinheiros' subway station
General view following a collapse at 'Pinheiros' subway station during construction works, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 12 January 2007. Image Credit: AFP

Rio de Janeiro: A Brazilian court fined executives and companies including French transportation giant Alstom nearly $50 million for a 2007 collapse at a subway construction site that killed seven people, in a ruling seen by AFP Saturday.

A judge for the Sao Paulo state court of justice ordered six then-directors of the municipal metro company and seven firms involved in the project to pay a collective fine of 240 million reais ($48 million), finding their "administrative misconduct" led to the cave-in.

The ruling, which can be appealed, also barred the defendants from working in the public sector and banned the companies from government contracts in Brazil for five years.

Workers were excavating for the Pinheiros metro station on the west side of the Brazilian economic capital when a massive sinkhole ripped open on January 12, 2007, swallowing part of a nearby road.

The lip of the hole gave way to a landslide, taking pedestrians and vehicles with it and dumping tons of earth, asphalt and concrete on top.

More than 90 buildings in the area had to be demolished or condemned.

Despite signs of structural weakness at the tunnel site, "drilling was executed at the already fragile location, and the necessary support structures were not immediately installed," Judge Marcos de Lima Porta wrote in his ruling, issued Friday.

"This approach... proved not only dangerous, but negligent, clearly exposing the site to the imminent risk of collapse."

The companies fined include Brazilian construction and engineering giants OAS (now known as Grupo Metha), Queiroz Galvao, Camargo Correa and CBPO, a subsidiary of Odebrecht (now known as Novonor).

None of the companies immediately responded to requests for comment.