PETROPOLIS, Brazil (AP) – The death toll from floods and landslides in the mountainous city of Petropolis rose to at least 110 on Thursday, and local officials said it could still rise sharply as more than 130 people remain. are considered insignificant.
The Rio de Janeiro government has confirmed an increase in the number of victims hours after local police announced that 134 people are missing, many feared being trapped in the mud near a German city located in the mountains above the city of Rio de Janeiro. de Janeiro.
Floods and floods dragged cars and houses through the city streets on Tuesday during the heaviest rainfall in decades. One video showed two buses sinking into a swollen river as passengers climbed out of windows, getting to safety. Some did not reach the shores and were washed out of sight.
Survivors dug up the ruined landscape to find loved ones, even though more landslides probably appeared on the city’s slopes. A small slide on Thursday called for an evacuation but was not injured.
Rosilina Virginia said her brother barely escaped and she considers it a miracle. But a friend has not yet been found.
“It’s very sad to see people asking for help and not being able to help, there’s nothing they can do,” Virginia told the Associated Press when the man comforted her. “It’s desperate, the sense of loss is so great.”
While some people tried to clean up the dirt, others began burying lost relatives, with 17 burials in the damaged cemetery.
Rio police said Thursday that about 200 agents are checking lists of the living, dead and missing, visiting checkpoints and shelters, as well as the city morgue. They said they managed to remove three missing people from the list by finding them alive at a local school.
“Every detail is important so we can track people,” said Rio police investigator Ellen Southa. “We need people to report the missing person’s full name, ID, physical features and the clothes the person was wearing.”
Named after the former Brazilian emperor, Petropolis was a haven for people fleeing the summer heat and tourists looking to explore the so-called “Imperial City”.
Its prosperity also attracted residents from poor regions of Rio, and the population grew chaotically, climbing mountain slopes now covered with small dwellings densely packed together, often in areas that became more vulnerable due to deforestation and insufficient drainage.
The state fire service said 25.8 centimeters (just over 10 inches) of rain fell in three hours on Tuesday – almost as much as in the previous 30 days combined. Rio Governor Claudio Castro told a news conference that the rains had been the worst in Petropolis since 1932.
“No one could have predicted such heavy rain,” Castro said. According to weather forecasters, more precipitation is expected during the week.
Castro added that nearly 400 people were left homeless and 24 people survived. They were lucky, and they were few.
64-year-old Lisa Torres Machado said the “hand of God” saved her family from tragedy.
“There was a room left in my mother’s house, and she hid there with my two sisters and brother,” said Machado, who has lived in Petropolis for three decades. “I can’t sleep. I still can’t believe what’s going on. We lost all our friends. “
Similar disasters have occurred in the affected mountain region in recent decades, including one that has killed more than 900 people. In the following years, Petropolis presented a plan to reduce the risk of landslides, but work progressed only slowly. The plan, unveiled in 2017, was based on an analysis that found that 18% of the city’s territory is at high risk of landslides and floods.
Local authorities report that more than 180 residents living in at-risk areas are sheltered in schools. More equipment and manpower are expected to help rescue operations on Thursday.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsanara expressed solidarity during his trip to Russia. Petropolis City Hall has announced a three-day mourning period for the tragedy.
Southeastern Brazil has been punished by heavy rains since the beginning of the year, with more than 40 deaths recorded between incidents in Minas Gerais in early January and Sao Paulo later that month.