Brazil

Death toll rises as heavy rains pound Brazil

Format
Situation Report
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Posted
Originally published
Written by Stephanie Kriner, Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org, with news reports
As rescuers continue searching for bodies buried under landslides, the death toll from the disaster - triggered by days of torrential rain last week - has risen to 66, Brazilian officials said. The worst flooding to hit the Brazil in 30 years also has forced some 18,000 people from their homes and left 2,800 homeless, according to news reports.

The torrential downpours began on Dec. 23, triggering mudslides that crashed through shantytowns on the outskirts of a mountain resort city near Rio de Janeiro. Neighborhoods were practically washed away by rains and mudslides that buried entire families in their flimsy homes under tons of thick mud and stones.

At least 66 people have died in days of heavy downpours. Hundreds have been evacuated to schools, gymnasiums and churches where they are receiving food and clothes from donations as well as municipal and state government aid. Some small towns and city districts remain flooded, putting health services on alert to prevent outbreaks of disease.

Authorities have taken steps to ensure that the injured and homeless receive vaccinations for tetanus. Officials also may vaccinate against hepatitis A. The Brazilian Red Cross is assisting the Civil Defense in responding to the disaster.

In Minas Gerais, a neighboring state of Rio de Janeiro, heavy rains raised water levels of rivers in at least two regions, flooding hundreds of homes and threatening many more.

Heavy rains again pounded central Brazil on New Year's Eve, causing severe flooding that hit the historic town of Goias Velho, an old regional capital of central Brazil named as a World Heritage Site last month, reported CNN. The floods gushed down Goias Velho's cobblestone main street, damaging town hall and a major market building.

There were no reported casualties in the overnight downpours. However, continued rains in recent days caused another 10 deaths in addition to the 60 people who died in torrential rains over the Christmas holiday in Rio de Janeiro state. Early Monday, a heavy rain storm left four people dead, including two infants, in the outskirts of Petropolis, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro.

In Petropolis, a popular weekend retreat in the mountains near Rio where most of the flood-related deaths occurred, even sturdier middle class houses collapsed. "In Petropolis they had one month's average rainfall in just a few hours. It was a record, a deluge," Col. Joao Bosco, head of the state Civil Defense Department, told Reuters.

A state of emergency has been declared for 12 cities, and a few dozen people are still listed as missing. The most severely affected areas have been the slums and shantytowns in Petropolis, Duque de Caxias and Paracambi. Rio de Janeiro city, Niteroi, Japari, B. Jardim, B. Roxo and other towns also have been hit hard.

"It breaks my heart," President Fernando Henrique Cardoso told reporters during his visit to neighborhoods devastated by the rains. He pledged unspecified aid for the state as a "presidential urgency."

The national meteorological service predicts that heavy rains could start up again this week.

Slums and shantytowns have been most affected by the heavy rains in Rio de Janeiro state.

Rio de Janeiro state has a history of catastrophic floods. In 1998, 55 people died from a similar tragedy, Bosco said. In 1966, rains and mudslides killed more than 100 people in the state.

Municipal and civil defense officials said the tragedy underscores the widespread problem of unauthorized settling of poor families on hills where soil often slides during rains.

However, the disaster also has a bright side: The torrential rains across Brazil have helped fill hydroelectric power plants' reservoirs, depleted by two years of drought that forced the government to introduce power rationing in June.

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American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

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DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.