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Death toll keeps rising in Rio de Janeiro State

Friday, February 18th 2022 - 14:36 UTC
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SAR work had to be halted due to new rains in Petropolis (EFE) SAR work had to be halted due to new rains in Petropolis (EFE)

Relief work in Petropolis had to be halted Thursday due to new rains but the death toll continued to increase from previous figures, reaching 117 fatalities and at least 116 people missing.

 Of the 101 bodies retrieved, 65 were women, 36 men and 13 children. Only 33 bodies had been identified Thursday.

Civil Defense activated the rain alarms at 5.40 pm local time, thus bringing all search and rescue efforts to an end for the day to ensure the safety of the teams.

A new landslide Thursday also caused the evacuation of another Petropolis neighborhood, it was reported.

The Whereabouts Discovery Police Station (DDPA) sent almost all of its staff to Petrópolis. Four teams are sweeping hospitals, shelters and schools to identify missing people.

“People who have lost loved ones are not able to go to a police chief to register a disappearance. So, we set up this task force, going to the places, to get names, data, clothes that these people were wearing at the time, everything to facilitate these identifications,” explained delegate Ellen Souto.

According to SAR teams, 24 people had been rescued alive and 705 others were referred to the 33 support points set up in the city in churches and schools in the area.

According to the National Monitoring and Alert Center, the possibility of mass movement events in the mountainous region of Rio remains very high, especially in Petrópolis. Local authorities also explained the occurrence of landslides was also highly likely even in the absence of rain due to a high level of soil moisture.

“It was the worst rain since 1932. Really, it was 240 millimeters in two hours. It was a highly extraordinary rain,” Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro said. He added the storm in Petrópolis brought together “historical tragedy” and a “deficit that really exists.”

Moderate rain is still forecast at any time.

The registration of missing persons is being carried out by the DDPA, which makes contact and specialized assistance to those seeking information on missing persons and police reports. To date, 116 missing persons have been registered.

Petropolis Mayor Rubens Bomtempo told reporters the number of dead could rise as rescue workers and volunteers search through the wreckage.

The city, located 68 kilometers north of Rio de Janeiro, was hit by torrential rainfall Tuesday that turned streets into rivers. Local meteorological agency MetSul reported that some parts of Petropolis received nearly 26 centimeters in less than six hours — more than was expected for the entire month of February.

“Working overnight, with poor lighting and soggy ground, is always a challenge. But I'm determined to work tirelessly in our search for survivors,” Rio de Janeiro's civil defense head Leandro Monteiro said.

Since December, heavy rains have triggered deadly floods and landslides in northeast Brazil and Sao Paulo state, threatening to delay harvests in the midwestern region and briefly forcing the suspension of mining in the state of Minas Gerais.

Categories: Environment, Brazil.

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