Many are missing after entire neighbourhoods left under water
Heavy rain triggered floods and landslides in Brazil, killing at least 36 people and casting a pall over the country’s annual carnival festivities.
The hardest-hit regions – Sao Sebastiao, Ubatuba, Ilhabela and Bertioga – had to abruptly cancel public parades in order to rescue survivors. Pictures from some of the worst-hit areas showed entire neighbourhoods inundated in water with only roofs visible of some houses, while highways and roads remained cut off with fallen trees.
A road that connects Rio de Janeiro to the city of Santos was cut off after landslides and floodwaters. Residents and rescue workers are bracing for heavy rains that will continue to lash Sao Paulo’s coastal area, leading to challenging evacuations and rescue work.
Sao Paulo, the most populous and wealthiest Brazilian state, has declared a 180-day state of emergency for its six cities after what experts described as an “unprecedented, extreme weather event”.
Authorities said 600mm of rain fell in one day.
Sao Paulo state government said in a statement that 35 people died in Sao Sebastiao and a seven-year-old girl was killed in neighbouring Ubatuba.
The cities of Sao Sebastiao, Ubatuba, Ilhabela and Bertioga cancelled their carnival festivities as rescue teams struggled to find those missing, injured and feared dead in the rubble.
“Our rescue teams are not managing to get to several locations, it is a chaotic situation,” said Felipe Augusto, the mayor of Sao Sebastiao. He said dozens of people are missing and 50 houses collapsed in the city due to the landslides.
Mr Augusto posted on social media several videos of widespread destruction in his city, including one of a baby being rescued by locals lined up on a flooded street.
“We have not yet gauged the scale of the damage. We are trying to rescue the victims,” said Mr Augusto, describing the situation as “extremely critical”.
“We are working at nearly 50 residences that collapsed under the force of the water and there are still people buried,” he told Globo News.
Sao Paulo governor Tarcisio de Freitas said he has requested military support and is scheduled to meet federal officials to coordinate the response.
In the port city of Santos, rescue attempts were interrupted by wind gusts exceeding 55kpm and waves of more than one-metre high.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was on holiday, spending the carnival in Bahia state in Brazil’s northeast, was expected to visit the main affected areas.
“We are going to bring together all levels of government and, with the solidarity of society, treat the wounded, look for the missing, restore highways, power connections and telecommunications in the region. My condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy,” he said.
The federal government has mobilised the army to join the search and rescue efforts.
Rio de Janeiro’s famously colourful carnival celebration returned in full force this month after Covid and is expected to generate nearly $1bn in business. The streets of the city play host to the free and wildly hedonistic parties, known as blocos, while the traditional samba schools parade through the city’s Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome. (© Independent News Service)