By Anna Kaiser, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Heavy rains hit Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of the morning yesterday, causing the closure of Santos Dumont Airport and much flooding, major traffic and power outages around the Rio metropolitan area during commuter hours. Traffic delays continued throughout the day and into the night leaving Santos Dumont closed for over nine hours.
Runways at the city’s domestic airport were shut down at 6:45 AM until 5:30 PM. Chaos ensued at the airport as 68 flights were canceled and 44 were delayed.
Trees fell in both Botafogo and Flamengo neighborhoods, one hitting a car and the other closing down a portion of Rua Guilhermina Guinle. This created massive traffic jams in the Zona Sul (South Zone) neighborhoods of Botafogo, Humaitá, Flamengo and Gávea.
Traffic continued into the night, causing a longer journey for commuters on Friday afternoon. Travel time from Barra da Tijuca to Zona Sul was over three hours by public transit.
Occasional torrential rains tend to wreak havoc in the city of Rio de Janeiro, as rising water causes flooding and paralyzes traffic in a matter of hours.
Yesterday’s heavy rains and the long delays they triggered caused many to express concern over the city’s lack of adequate infrastructure, as well as Rio’s ability to handle extreme weather efficiently, especially in the context of the upcoming mega events, which will take place in various areas of the vast, sprawling city.
Five displeased passengers at Santos Dumont Airport reminded President Dilma Rousseff of Rio’s inability to cope with heavy rains, holding signs that read: “Dilma, imagine during the World Cup,” a phrase that has come to capture people’s pessimism over whether Rio – and the country – will be able to fully prepare for the FIFA World Cup it is set to host in 2014.
“It is unacceptable that meteorological problems paralyzed this airport for so long, in a city that is going to host the World Cup,” commented another inconvenienced customer.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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