Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Rescuers deployed in boats and aircraft are engaged in a race against time in Brazil’s mountainous southeast, as storms and heavy rains have resulted in at least 25 fatalities across two states. Over the weekend, a deluge wreaked havoc in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo, leading to a chaotic situation characterized by widespread flooding, as described by authorities.

The death toll in Espirito Santo surged from four to 17 on Sunday, with rescuers making progress aided by receding water levels following a temporary lull in rainfall. Among the most severely affected areas was Mimoso do Sul, a municipality with nearly 25,000 residents, where flooding claimed the lives of at least 15 individuals.

In the aftermath, streets were strewn with debris, including ruined mattresses, armchairs, and household appliances, as recounted by Michelly Oliveira, 37, a local shopkeeper whose livelihood was devastated by the disaster. Additionally, two fatalities were reported in the municipality of Apiaca.

State Governor Renato Casagrande characterized the situation as “chaotic,” although the decrease in water levels on Sunday facilitated access to previously inaccessible regions. Evacuation efforts have seen over 5,200 individuals relocated from their homes, according to state authorities.

In neighboring Rio de Janeiro state, at least eight fatalities have been reported, primarily attributed to landslides. Residents, such as Nicellio Ramos, 52, from Duque de Caxias, expressed the recurrent nature of flooding, exacerbated this year by the third occurrence. Four of the deaths in Rio state occurred due to a collapsed house in the city of Petropolis, where search teams managed to rescue a girl buried for over 16 hours, her father having shielded her with his body.

The recent deluge follows a series of extreme weather events in Brazil, with experts linking their frequency and severity to climate change. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva acknowledged the impact on social media, expressing solidarity with the affected communities and affirming the government’s commitment to collaborate with local authorities to mitigate flood damage.

Images circulated in local media depict torrents of water, mud, and debris cascading down slopes in Petropolis, which experienced a devastating storm in February 2022 resulting in numerous fatalities. Despite ongoing rescue efforts, the risk of further landslides persists, with part of the cemetery in Petropolis already washed away.

The National Institute of Meteorology had issued warnings of severe storms, particularly in Rio, predicting exceptionally high rainfall over the weekend. Rio authorities had preemptively declared a holiday and advised residents to remain indoors. The recent extreme weather events follow a record heatwave, underscoring the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change in Brazil.

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