Home LATEST NEWS Flood toll in Petropolis, Brazil reaches at least 110 dead

Flood toll in Petropolis, Brazil reaches at least 110 dead

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Some 500 firefighters were still mobilized to search for the missing in this city of 300,000 inhabitants located in a mountainous region 60 km north of Rio de Janeiro.

The first victims whose bodies were identified at the forensic institute were buried in a cemetery in central Petropolis. Among them, a 22-year-old woman and her two children, aged two and five.

In the streets overflown by rescue helicopters, many residents spoke of missing relatives or neighbors, noted an AFP journalist.

According to a local police count, more than 130 people are missing. But this number could ultimately be lower, because only 33 of the 110 bodies found so far have been identified.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be hard to find survivors. Given the situation, it is even practically impossible, but we must give our maximum, to be able to return the bodies to the families.told AFP Luciano Gonçalves, a 26-year-old volunteer covered in mud.

You have to take a lot of precautions because there are still risk areasthreatened by landslides, he adds.

People who dig.

The search for survivors continues.

Photo: AP/Silvia Izquierdo

Sansao de Santo Domingo, a corporal of the Military Police present to lend a hand to the rescuers, managed Thursday to save a small gray dog ​​in the middle of the rubble of a house at the top of the hill.

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He was scared, he even tried to bite me when I arrived. He defended his territory, because he knew that his masters had certainly been buried just below, in the mud.explains this policeman.

Bolsonaro expected at the scene

The situation threatens to get worse in the next few hours. Civil Defense has issued a notice of new heavy rain in the evening or next night and warned that new alerts could be launched at any time.

In the event of heavy rain, people in high-risk areas should seek refuge in a safe placerecommended the Civil Defense, adding that more than 700 people had already been collected in one of the 33 schools.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who was on an official visit to Russia earlier this week, then to Hungary on Thursday, was to go to Petropolis on Friday, upon his return to Brazil, to fly over the disaster areas.

The city received in a few hours Tuesday evening more rain than the average for an entire month of February, according to the meteorological agency MetSul.

The governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Claudio Castro, estimated Wednesday during a press conference on the spot that these were the worst rains by volume since 1932.

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Global warming and unplanned urbanization

Brazil has been hit in this rainy season by particularly deadly rainfall, in the states of Bahia (northeast), Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo (southeast), which experts have linked to global warming.

With global warming, the risk of heavy rainfall events increases, according to scientists.

These rains, associated in particular in Brazil with an often wild urbanization, favor floods and deadly landslides.

A young child carrying a suitcase.

Many families have seen their houses flattened by the landslides.

Photo: AP/Silvia Izquierdo

In Petropolis, the former summer residence of the Imperial Court, cars were swept away by rivers of mud, found with their wheels in the air or piled on top of other vehicles.

With its opulent old houses, this very touristic city is a destination that attracts a large number of visitors in search of history, hiking in a mountainous and green nature and a temperate climate.

By January 2011, more than 900 people had died due to floods and landslides in a vast region including Petropolis and the neighboring towns of Nova Friburgo, Itaipava and Teresopolis.

The number of deaths due to torrential rains on Tuesday has already exceeded the toll of 2011 for Petropolis, when 73 people died.

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