By Dorah Feliciano, Contributing Reporter
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – Rio de Janeiro’s fire department still has no clues as to what happened to the 43-year-old Argentine tourist who disappeared on Thursday afternoon after going for a swim at a spot known as Praia do Pepê in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood.
A rescue operation, which included divers and drones, was launched after the woman accompanying Juan Pablo Riba reached out to authorities. She and Riba had arrived in Rio on Thursday afternoon. They left their bags at the hotel and went out for a swim.
According to the woman, whose name was not disclosed to local media, after a few minutes in the water, the two tourists were hit by a series of waves. The woman was thrown back to the sand while Ribas was dragged by the current away from the shoreline.
After a few hours of searching on Thursday, the fire department was forced to suspend the rescue mission due to bad weather and low visibility. Rescuers resumed searches on Friday morning, but a night of choppy seas, high winds and intense rains hindered rescue efforts and firefighters were unable to locate the tourist.
On Thursday, Rio’s Emergency Operations Center issued an alert about the possibility of waves up to 2.5 meters in some parts of the city’s shorelines. Officials were recommending that bathers and fishers avoid the sea.
Friday, officials placed the city under a crisis watch due to the bad weather. Part of the tunnel which links Rio’s Barra da Tijuca and Leblon neighborhoods collapsed due to the heavy rains. No injuries were reported but residents trying to reach Barra were faced with a 200 km traffic tailback.