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Rescue teams in southeastern Brazil are working tirelessly to find survivors after heavy rains caused severe flooding and landslides. The deluge, which hit the popular beach city of Sao Sebastiao, saw a record-breaking 680 millimetres of rain in just 24 hours – more than double the expected monthly amount. The Inmet weather service stated that rains would continue falling in the region throughout the week.
Authorities are currently searching for dozens of people reported as missing after raging rivers of mud, stones, and trees destroyed homes that were built on slopes. The death toll initially reported as 44, has now risen to 46 – with all fatalities occurring in Sao Sebastiao, except for one in Ubatuba. “We don’t know where the death toll will end,” said Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio de Freitas, who visited the area via helicopter.
The wet weather has complicated the work of over 1,000 search and rescue personnel who are backed by 50 vehicles, 14 helicopters, and 53 engineering teams. The office of Sao Paulo’s governor reported that search and rescue work would continue uninterrupted as emergency crews pulled more bodies from the disaster zone on Tuesday.
More than 1,730 people have been temporarily evacuated from their homes while at least 760 have been left homeless. The situation is dire, with 25 people, including six children, being hospitalized – and seven of them in critical condition. Sao Sebastiao officials have set up a tent for a collective wake for victims, while residents with shovels and hoes have been cleaning mud out of their homes.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flew over the affected area on Monday and warned about the dangers of improvised urban construction. An estimated 9.5 million of Brazil’s 215 million people live in areas at high risk of flooding or landslides, often in impoverished favelas.
Tourists in brazil
The Brazilian media has reported that some tourists paid up to 30,000 reais (almost $6,000) for a helicopter ride out of the coastal areas, as many roads remain blocked by boulders and mud. The authorities are urging tourists to leave the area, but many remain stranded. Gabriel Bonavides, a 19-year-old law student who was spending his holiday in a rented house with friends, said, “There was no way to go anywhere. We left the car there and had to return by boat.”
Meanwhile, residents of nearby Juquehy are still shaken by the weekend’s storm and have spent another night in anguish as rains caused fresh landslides early Tuesday. Thankfully, no further casualties were reported.
governors office: 46 killed
The governor’s office raised the death toll on Tuesday from 44 to 46, and with 38 people still reported as missing, it is likely that the final number of deaths will be closer to 70. The continued heavy rains and the difficulties in reaching many of the affected areas further complicate the situation.