Frantic search for dozens missing in Brazil floods
February 22, 2023 01:33 PM
Rescuers scrambled Tuesday to find survivors among dozens of people reported missing after the heaviest rains in Brazilian history caused floods that killed at least 44 people over the weekend.
More than 680 millimeters (26 inches) of rain -- more than double the expected monthly amount -- fell in 24 hours around the popular beach city of Sao Sebastiao, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Sao Paulo. On Tuesday, the government raised the death toll to 44.
"Search and rescue work continues uninterrupted" after raging rivers of mud, stones and trees razed precarious houses built on slopes, according to the office of Sao Paulo's governor. The authorities said more than 1,730 people had been temporarily evacuated from their homes while more than 760 were left homeless.
Twenty-three people, including five children, were taken to hospital and six were in serious condition.
Sao Sebastiao officials set up a tent for a collective wake for victims. Residents of nearby Juquehy, still shaken by the weekend storm, spent another night in anguish when rains caused fresh landslides in the early hours of Tuesday.
Some 80 people left their homes but no casualties were reported, according to authorities. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flew over the holiday zone-turned-disaster 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. With many roads still blocked by boulders and mud dumped there by landslides, some vacationers were evacuated by boat as intense helicopter traffic continued to and from the most affected areas.
"There was no way to go anywhere," said Gabriel Bonavides, who was spending his holidays in a rented house with friends when disaster struck. "We left the car there and had to return by boat," the 19-year-old law student told AFP.