Another 134 people are missing, according to Rio’s civil defense, and continuing heavy rains that forced the evacuation of another city district on Thursday could drive that number up.
Rainfall on Tuesday afternoon alone was more than the historical average for the entire month of February, according to Rio Civil Defense.
Floodwaters raced through hillside neighborhoods, leaving a trail of destruction. On Tuesday, the Brazilian Civil Defense Secretariat reported that 269 landslides had been recorded, according to CNN’s Brazilian affiliate CNN.
Wednesday, search and rescue teams were wading through the mud and sifting through the wreckage for survivors. The National Civil Defense said it had rescued 24 people, but more than 439 people had lost their homes and rescue efforts were underway.
“The work is ongoing and we will do what is possible and impossible to save lives,” Rio de Janeiro’s governor, Claudio Castro, said Wednesday, in a post on Twitter, as he was sharing the latest developments.
On Thursday, seller Luis Filipe de Oliveira was still searching for his missing brother and grandmother. “They were buried, but we don’t know if they are alive or dead,” he told CNN. He said rescuers were focusing on other homes in the neighborhood the two lived in, so one of his brothers went to the site to dig through the mud. “I tell myself I will find them alive,” Oliveira added. “But I am prepared for the worst.”
Located in the hills north of the capital, Rio de Janeiro, Petropolis is nicknamed the “Imperial City” for its popularity among the Brazilian monarchy in the 19th century, and is known for its opulent architecture, theaters, and museums. Pictures and footage on Wednesday showed parts of the majestic city in ruins.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was in Moscow when the landslides began on Tuesday and then traveled to Hungary, is expected to visit Petropolis on Friday. On Wednesday, he said he had spoken to ministers and asked for “immediate help” to be sent to the victims.
Since the 1960s, southern Brazil has seen an increase in both the number of extreme rain events and the average amount of rain, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This can be explained in part by natural variation in weather patterns, but also by climate change, as well as aerosols and depletion of the atmospheric ozone layer.
Global average temperatures are now at least 1.1°C higher than they were before industrialization. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a warming of 2°C means increased intensity and frequency of extreme rain and flood events in southern Brazil.
Scientists say the world needs to make deep and sustainable reductions in greenhouse gases, primarily by switching away from fossil fuels, to contain global warming to 1.5°C.
Brazil has experienced a number of natural disasters in recent months.
At the beginning of February, at least 24 people were killed after torrential rains in Sao Paulo, home to Brazil’s financial hub, caused floods and landslides across the southeastern Brazilian state.
More than 1,546 families were displaced, according to a statement issued by the government civil defense, which also stated at least Eight children died in the disaster.
At the end of December, it was announced that the death toll from the floods and torrential rains that had swept the Brazilian state of Bahia since November had risen to 20.
State officials say the floods also caused two dams to explode, leaving an estimated 62,800 people homeless.
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