One week after the heaviest rains recorded in the Brazilian city of Petropolis, the number of casualties was reported Tuesday to have reached 195, while 69 people remained missing and another 811 were still homeless after being evacuated.
A search and rescue team of over 600, some 500 of them from the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department, were still looking through the rubble. So far, 24 people were rescued alive, it was reported. Victims are also being sought in the rivers that cross the city.
Drones and ground teams are used to scan the waters, identifying points of interest and displacing a firefighter specialized in diving to the places, the Fire Department has said.
More than 60% of the dead are women and there were also 32 children.
It was the worst storm in Petrópolis since 1932. According to the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department, 258.6 millimeters of water fell in just 3 hours, which caused destruction in several neighborhoods. The Rio de Janeiro State government has already removed 26,500 tons of garbage and debris from the streets of Petrópolis, while the extent of the damage is still to be assessed. Historic buildings also undergo evaluation.
Federal Supreme Court (STF) Chief Justice Luiz Fux has suspended all judicial deadlines involving the Petropolis City Council, it was reported, as local officials are fully dedicated to the humanitarian efforts.
A study by the Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Firjan) showed 65% of businesses in Petropolis had been hit by the catastrophe and 85% of them have been unable to resume operations.
In 1988, 171 people had died in what had been until now the worst storm in Petropolis' history and 73 people were killed in yet another storm back in 2011, which also affected the cities of Teresópolis and Nova Friburgo.
Rain alarms rang in Petropolis yet again Tuesday (Feb. 22) near risk areas, to inform about the occurrence of moderate to heavy rains. In the middle of the afternoon, the siren of the Quitandinha neighborhood was activated again, after a record of 41 millimeters of precipitation in one hour.
The guideline is that, in case of heavy rain, the population seeks a safe place at the home of family members, outside the risk area or at one of the support points maintained by the city hall, authorities insisted.
Petropolis Mayor Rubens Bomtempo announced an agreement with the State Governor Cláudio Castro Monday to guarantee a social income for families to rent rooms or houses temporarily.
Health and water distribution services are gradually being re-established, but are not yet fully operational. In some regions it is still necessary to use a water truck for supply. Vaccination against COVID-19 resumed Monday.
Civil Police continued with the process of collecting DNA for the identification of the bodies retrieved.
The United Nations has insisted on the need to take action against the consequences of climate change, of which the Petropolis tragedy is said to be a direct result.