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Brazil mudslides from torrential rains kill at least 38


After the torrential rains that fell in Petropolis on February 16, 2022, people react by looking for victims at Morro da Oficina.

Ricardo Moraes | Reuters

According to local authorities, 38 deaths have been caused by the devastating floods and mudslides in Rio de Janeiro’s mountainous regions.

Petropolis was hit hard by Tuesday’s torrential rains. Mayor Rubens Bomtempo stated that the death toll could increase as rescuers dig through wreckage.

Rosilene Virgilio, 49, was in tears as she recalled the pleas for help from a woman she couldn’t save.

“Yesterday there was a woman screaming, ‘Help! Get me out of here!’ But we couldn’t do anything; the water was gushing out, the mud was gushing out,” Virgilio told The Associated Press. “Our city unfortunately is finished.”

Petropolis is a German-influenced city named for former emperor Dom Pedro I. Nestled in the mountains above the coastal metropolis, for almost two centuries it has been a refuge for people escaping summer heat and tourists keen to explore Brazil’s “Imperial City.” It features stately mansions along its waterways, but its mountainsides are covered with homes packed tightly together, some of which lack proper foundations.

After the torrential rains of Brazil’s Petropolis on February 16, 2022, people work at the site where a mudslide occurred at Morro da Oficina.

Ricardo Moraes | Reuters

Gov. Claudio Castro said that he was mustering all the state government’s heavy machinery to help dig out the buried area. According to him, soldiers had already begun work in the area that was ravaged by heavy rains in January 2011, which resulted in almost 900 deaths.

According to the state fire service, Tuesday night’s rain totaled 25.8cm (just above 10 inches) within the three hour period. That is nearly as much as all the rainfall recorded during the past 30 days.

On social media, video showed homes and vehicles being moved by landslides and water swirling in Petropolis. The Globo television network showed houses buried beneath mud in areas firefighters hadn’t yet been able to access.

After torrential rains, rescue workers walk to the site of a Morro da Oficina mudslide. This was in Brazil on February 16, 2022.

Ricardo Moraes | Reuters

Many streets were still unaccessible on Wednesday due to the accumulation of cars and household items, which made it difficult for people to access higher areas.

“The neighbors came down running and I gave them shelter,” bar owner Emerson Torre, 39, recalled.

His roof fell under the weight of torrential water. He managed to get his mother and three other people out of the bar in time, but one neighbor and the person’s daughter were unable to escape.

“It was like an avalanche, it fell all at once. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Torre told the AP as rescue helicopters hovered overhead. “Every neighbor has lost a loved one, has lost two, three, four members of the same family, kids.”

Petropolis’ city hall declared three days of mourning. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on a trip to Russia, said on Twitter that he instructed his ministers to deliver immediate support to the afflicted.

“May God comfort the family members of the victims,” he wrote.

Heavy rains in Southeastern Brazil have caused more than 40 deaths since the beginning of this year. Minas Gerais state in early January Sao Paulo and the state of Sao Paulo later the same month.