January 28. 2023. 8:37

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At least 58 dead after heavy rains trigger flooding and landslides in Brazilian city

The aftermath of a mudslide in Petrópolis, Brazil. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

At least 58 people have died after heavy rains hit Petrópolis, a city in a mountainous region of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state, local government officials said on Wednesday, while rescue teams said several more people were missing.

City streets were flooded, while landslides also resulted in fatalities, after rainfall on Tuesday exceeded the average for the entire month of February.

Residents observe a damaged hillside after heavy rains caused landslides in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Photograph: Andre Borges/Bloomberg

In the Morro da Oficina neighbourhood, up to 80 houses were hit by landslides, according to authorities who expect the death toll to rise. Fire department and local civil defence teams were working at the site.

“The situation is almost like war . . . Cars hanging from poles, cars overturned, lots of mud and water still,” Rio de Janeiro governor Cláudio Castro told on-site reporters.

Petrópolis’s city hall has declared three days of mourning. Displaced people were being taken to schools and shelters. More than 300 people have had to leave their homes.

“The water came very fast and with great force. My loss was 100 per cent. Our life was already tough with the pandemic and less movement, and this tragedy still comes,” said shopkeeper Henrique Pereira.

A man rides his bicycle past cars destroyed by a flash flood in Petrópolis, Brazil. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

President Jair Bolsonaro, who is travelling to Russia, said on Twitter he had asked ministers to help the city and the victims of the storm. The governor went to Petrópolis on Tuesday night.

“We intend to already offer to the mayor what we can,” Mr Bolsonaro told reporters in Moscow, adding that he would release federal funds to help “restore traffic in the region”.

Since December, heavy rains have triggered deadly floods and landslides in northeast Brazil and São Paulo state, threatened to delay harvests in the nation’s central western region and briefly forcing the suspension of mining operations in the state of Minas Gerais. – Reuters

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