More Than 500 Dead in Mudslides North of Rio de Janeiro

By Dialogo
January 14, 2011

I am from Angola but I keep abreast of the news from Brazil, about this disaster that affected the country in a way not seen in 4 decades, I am really sorry and hope that the situation resolves itself as soon as possible, with faith, harmony and solidarity that it appears Brazilians have to give to one another, keep doing what you are doing as God will always be close to you. I will follow the happenings on Record News, or R7. May God protect you and set you free from all evil. Rafael van-dùnem. My email is more of an effort to unite with the people of Brazil, when a brother country is affected, the most important thing is to partner with and console those families that are going through such a terrible time I'm sending to them greetings from the people of Uruguay and Argentina. I would need to know about the Praia do Rosa zone, and whether it is affected by the flooding and what are the risks.
In a vast landscape of debris and devastation, aid teams returned to work on 13 January, seeking victims of the torrential rains that caused more than 500 deaths in a mountainous tourist region north of Rio de Janeiro.

Three large municipalities in that mountain region, 100 km north of the city of Rio de Janeiro, suffered massive landslides and river flooding that carried off people, houses, trees, and everything that stood in their path, in what the press has judged to be the worst natural disaster to take place in Brazil in the last four decades.

In Nova Friburgo, an industrial and agricultural city 140 km north of Rio de Janeiro, at least 225 people died, municipal officials told the local media. Communications with the city, overwhelmed by floodwaters, remained practically non-existent on 13 January.

In the tourist center of Teresópolis, around 100 km north of Rio, at least 223 people lost their lives, and in neighboring Petrópolis, once a residence of Brazil’s emperors, there were 36 deaths, spokespeople for the mayor’s offices of those two cities told AFP.

Rescue teams returned to work in force on 13 January – many efforts had been interrupted overnight due to lack of light and difficult access – with searches in many areas that remained isolated and amid scenes of total destruction, with houses leveled by rivers of mud and water that came down from the mountains.

“It’s raining a lot, the soil is saturated with water, and there’s a risk of new mudslides,” an AFP photographer in Teresópolis reported.

The death toll is rising dramatically hour by hour as rescue teams reach the more difficult areas.

“Some locations in the interior have not yet been reached,” AFP was told by a spokesperson for the mayor’s office in Teresópolis, where at least fifteen mountain residential neighborhoods suffered floods and mudslides coming down from the high mountains.

In that city, the mayor’s office estimated that more than 2,200 people had had to abandon their houses or had lost them. A shelter had been improvised in a local gymnasium, while corpses were piling up in the local police station, and the Navy was hurrying to set up a field hospital near city hall.

The Civil Defense authorities were asking residents not to return to their homes in areas at risk.

The scenes of destruction were joined by scenes of the desolation of those looking for family members. Shelters, morgues, and first-aid stations had been improvised in numerous places in the three municipalities, which have many neighborhoods scattered in the mountains.

Many residents set to work as volunteers to rescue and transport those injured.

“In more than thirty years of experience with these problems, this is the most extreme situation I’ve seen, not only due to the spatial dimension, but rather chiefly due to the destructive impact and the number of dead,” a specialist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Ana Luiza Coelho, told the television news channel Globonews.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was preparing to fly over the affected areas, and the government approved a budget of more than 450 million dollars for aid to the victims and rebuilding of the devastated areas.