Photo: Deadly Storms Brazil
At least 13 people died in the powerful storm that deluged the hilly portion of the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, state Gov. Sergio Cabral said in a press conference on Monday.
Among the victims are two Civil Defense first responders in the city of Petropolis who were buried by a landslide as they were trying to help people affected by the rains.
Most of the other reported victims were in homes that were buried by some of the 21 other landslides registered in different parts of Petropolis, a city of 300,000 located about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the city of Rio de Janeiro and one of the region’s main urban centers.
Authorities fear that the death toll could rise because additional landslides have been continuing to occur in Petropolis as well as in nearby cities like Duque de Caxias and Xerem and in the towns of Mangaratiba, Niteroi and Angra dos Reis, but the most serious situation was in Petropolis.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, a low pressure area bringing rain and heavy winds on Sunday night paralyzed the metropolis and left several neighborhoods without electric power.
In addition, at least 12 rivers overflowed in Rio de Janeiro state and the rains caused landslides that covered several regional highways.
More rain fell in Petropolis in a 24-hour period than had been expected for the entire month of March, traditionally a fairly rainy month, the state government said.
According to Cabral, who traveled to Petropolis to personally coordinate rescue efforts, at least 140 families with 325 children among them were taken to shelters because their homes are located in high-risk areas.
“We repeat our request that people who live in high-risk areas go to the shelters, at least until the state of maximum alert is lifted,” Cabral said.
The governor also said that the Rio de Janeiro state government approved the disbursement of three million reais (about $1.5 million) to help with reconstruction tasks and that the city hall had temporarily hired 500 people to help clean up those streets in Petropolis that on Monday morning were either flooded or buried in mud or huge piles of earth that had cascaded down from rainsoaked hillsides.
Petropolis and nearby Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo were the cities that were most heavily affected by the rains that in early 2011 left about 1,000 people dead in what was considered the worst natural disaster ever to strike Brazil.