Petropolis, Brazil: At least 55 people were killed in the devastating flash floods and landslides that hit Brazil’s beautiful city of Petropolis, the streets turned into fierce rivers, and houses were wiped out, officials said yesterday. After a heavy storm on Tuesday rained a month’s worth of rain on a scenic tourist destination on the northern hills of Rio de Janeiro, rescue workers competed to find survivors buried in mud and debris. Firefighters and volunteer rescue workers dug up the wreckage of houses swept away by mud torrents, many of whom lived in poor hillside slums, threatening to increase deaths.
So far, at least 21 people have been rescued alive in this effort, according to the state government. Approximately 300 people were held in shelters, mainly schools, according to officials. Charities have called for donations of mattresses, blankets, food, water, clothing and face masks for the victims.
A 24-year-old resident, Wendell Pio Lorenco, was walking down the street with his TV in his arms, heading to a local church in search of a shelter. He said he was trying to save some of his possessions after spending a sleepless night helping him find the victims. “I found a girl buried alive,” he said. “Everyone says it looks like a war zone,” Governor Claudio Castro said almost the same after visiting the scene. “It’s almost a war situation. We mobilized the whole team,” he said. A video posted on social media from the rain on Tuesday showed the streets of Petropolis, the summer capital of the Brazilian Empire in the 19th century.
Many stores were completely flooded with rising water spouting through the streets of the historic city center. Officials said more than 180 firefighters and other rescue workers were being helped by 400 soldiers sent as reinforcements to respond to the emergency. The city hall has declared a “state of emergency” in a city of 300,000 people located 68 km (42 miles) north of Rio. The city council declared a three-day memorial service for the victims.
Petropolis is a popular destination for tourists to escape the summer heat of Rio, known for its lush streets, stately homes, imperial palace (now a museum) and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. According to the mayor’s office, the storm on Tuesday caused 258 millimeters (10 inches) of rain in three hours. This is about the same as all rainfall in the previous month.
According to officials, the heaviest torrential rains have passed, but milder rains are expected to continue and fall for several days. President Jair Bolsonaro said on Twitter that he was not behind the “tragedy” on his official trip to Russia. “Thank you for the words of solidarity with the people of Petropolis,” he told President Vladimir Putin after meeting Russian leaders. “May God comfort the (victim’s) family.” Brazil has been hit by heavy rains in recent months, causing a series of deadly floods and landslides.
According to experts, the heavy rain of the rainy season is increasing due to the effects of the La Niño phenomenon, which is the periodic cooling of the Pacific Ocean, and climate change. Global warming increases the risk and intensity of floods due to extreme rainfall, as the warm atmosphere holds more water.
Heavy rains caused floods and landslides last month, killing at least 28 people in southeastern Brazil, primarily in the state of São Paulo. Heavy rains also hit northeastern Bahia, killing 24 people in December. This is not the first time the mountains around Rio have become a deadly storm scene. In January 2011, more than 900 people died in the area due to heavy rains that caused floods and landslides in large areas, including Petropolis and neighboring cities Novafriburgo and Telezopolis. – AFP
https://www.kuwaittimes.com/torrential-rain-kills-55-in-brazil-tourist-town/ Heavy rain kills 55 people in a tourist city of Brazil