Southeast Brazil under flood, at least twenty dead

(Petrópolis) Brazilian rescue teams are working in pouring rain to help victims of the violent storm that hit the southeast of the country at the end of the week, notably the state of Rio de Janeiro. Janeiro, leaving at least twenty dead.

In Petrópolis, where four people died in the collapse of a house and a small building, an AFP team assisted on Saturday morning in the rescue of a little girl who had been buried for sixteen hours under the rubble. Her father’s body was discovered near her.

“The father heroically protected the little girl with his body and she was saved (…) We are in pain, but grateful for this miracle,” Luis Claudio de Souza, 63, neighbor and owner of the property, told AFP. ‘a neighborhood bar.

In total, the state of Rio de Janeiro has recorded eight deaths since the start of the bad weather on the night of Friday to Saturday, in the cities of Petrópolis, Teresópolis, Santa Cruz da Serra and Arraial do Cabo, according to the government.

In the neighboring state of Espirito Santo, a new toll announced on Sunday shows 12 deaths.

The storm deprived several thousand people of shelter, said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in a message published overnight from Saturday to Sunday on the X platform.

Such tragedies “are intensifying with climate change,” recalled the president of Brazil, a country plagued by repeated natural disasters.

Some 241 people died in the tourist town of Petrópolis in 2022, following heavy rains.

Lula also expressed his sympathy to the relatives of the victims and assured that the government was working with local authorities to “protect, prevent and repair the damage from the floods”.

“Chaotic” situation

The governor of the state of Espírito Santo, Renato Casagrande, described a “chaotic situation” in the town of Mimoso do Sul, north of Rio, where the number of possible victims of bad weather could not be established .

Aerial images taken on Saturday and released by firefighters show entire neighborhoods of the city under water, from which only the roofs of houses emerge. In other photos, published by local media, several vehicles, including a fire truck, are swept away by the current.

Rivers of water and mud also poured into the steep streets of Petrópolis, where the situation had been described as “critical” on Friday by the governor of the state of Rio, Claudio Castro, who declared the state emergency.

Dozens of soldiers and firefighters, helped by dogs, worked on Saturday morning in pouring rain, AFP noted. Part of the cemetery was washed away by water, also saw an AFP team present in the city, where the risk of new landslides persists.

Some 90 people have been rescued since Friday and public schools have been converted into shelters, according to an emergency committee set up by the government and relief forces.

Strong gusts of wind and intense rainfall also hit the coastline near Sao Paulo, where two children were injured and hospitalized on Friday.

The storm is due to the arrival of a cold front which wreaked havoc mid-week in Rio Grande do Sul (south), then affected Sao Paulo and Rio, before reaching Espírito Santo, explained the meteorologists from the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet).

Inmet forecasts had anticipated a “severe” storm, particularly in Rio, with precipitation of 200 mm of rain per day between Friday and Sunday.

This volume exceeds the historical average of 141.5 mm estimated for the entire month of March.

The storm comes after a heatwave in the region, where a felt temperature of 62.3°C was recorded on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.

Meteorological services predict heavy rainfall in the mountains and north of Rio, after 300 mm fell in Petrópolis in 24 hours and more than 220 mm in the towns of Teresópolis and Magé.


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