By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – The death toll in Petropólis, where heavy rains have caused flooding and landslides, has reached 28, the Secretariat of Civil Defense said. Intense rainfall overnight Sunday has devastated the historic city in the Região Serrana, in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro.
The search for the missing was continuing Thursday morning, with sniffer dogs and military personnel focused in the Quitandinha neighborhood, which recorded 499 mm of rain in the 96 hours. Rainfall predicted for the entire month of March was 270 mm. Four people are missing in a landslide on Espirito Santo street, according to a statement from the Civil Defense Secretariat.
On Wednesday, firefighters, military army and volunteers concentrated their efforts in the areas of Boca do Mato, and Alto Independência, areas where landslides buried whole families, O Globo reported. In the town of Boca do Mato, seven members of a family were buried, among them children and teenagers. On Monday, in this area, eight bodies were recovered.
The Civil Defense Secretariat, Sérgio Simões, told O Globo that the problem faced by search and rescue operators is the instability of the land, as the soil is too wet, and mud is knee-deep. He estimated that in Boca do Mato and Alto Independência areas there are still between 10 and 15 missing.
According to a statement from the city government, 1,463 people are sheltering in 27 support points scattered throughout the worst-affected neighborhoods.
Rains had stopped as of Wednesday, and Rio’s state environmental institute (INEA) said that the city’s flood warning system was no longer in a state of emergency, but remained in a state of vigilance.
The mountainous region of the State of Rio de Janeiro, known as Região Serrana, is particularly vulnerable to landslides and flooding. The State Geological Survey has identified that 67 of Rio’s 92 municipalities have areas at risk for landslides. Of those, 49 exhibit points of imminent risk and have over 36,000 inhabitants.
The region was devastated by Brazil’s worst ever natural disaster in January 2011, when landslides killed more than 900 people. About 30,000 survivors were displaced across the region. Less than three months ago, heavy rains killed two and displaced 3,000 in the region.
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