By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Heavy rains during the night left a trail of destruction in many Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods this Thursday morning, with rivers and streams overflowing, streets and avenues blocked and thousands left without electricity. The rains are said to have caused at least three deaths.
“Praca da Bandeira (Northern region of the city) filled with enough water for fifty Olympic pools in an hour. There is no way to predict such a rain” Rio’s Chief of Staff, Paulo Messina, told reporters on Thursday morning.
According to the Rio Alert System, the rains, left the city in the highest alert level, with the possibility flooding and landslides. Two people died in the Northern region of the city when their home collapsed due to the heavy rains. Another person, a police officer, died when his car was hit by a falling tree near Avenida Brasil.
The water in the Maracanã River, which had not overflowed for the past two years, rose quickly, flooding the neighborhoods of Maracanã and Tijuca. Main throroughways into Rio, like Avenida Brasil, Linha Amarela, Linha Vermelha and the Rio-Petrópolis Highway were flooded, leaving hundreds of drivers trapped.
Tom Jobim International Airport (Galeao) was closed for a few hours during the night and two international flights, one from Buenos Aires and another from Panama City, were diverted to airports in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
Part of the Tim Maia bike path, overlooking the ocean in the São Conrado neighborhood, collapsed early Thursday morning but there were no reports of injuries. In April of 2016, just months before the Rio Olympics, another stretch of the newly inaugurated cycle path collapsed killing two people.
Meteorologists predict heavy rains will continue on Thursday, decreasing on Friday and tapering off over the weekend.