At least 117 people have been killed in landslides and floods in the Brazilian city of Petropolis

Petropolis, Brazil, Feb 17 (Reuters) – The death toll from landslides and floods in Brazil’s colonial city of Petropolis rose to 117 on Thursday, with the region expected to rise further after nearly a century of torrential downpours.

Heavy rains in the afternoon recorded about 6 cm (2.36 inches) of rain in the city, further destabilizing the soil and disrupting efforts to locate survivors and clear debris. The region will receive 4 cm of rain overnight, meteorologists said.

“There are at least six children here, and there may be more from the neighborhood,” said resident Fabio Alves, who noted that rescuers were not looking for the area. We estimate that more than 10 people are buried here and we need help, ”he said.

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More than 700 people have fled their homes and taken refuge in local schools and other temporary shelters. Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro on Wednesday compared the damage to the war zone.

“I’m here to find my wife. I’m sure she’s here. A neighbor downstairs said she was on the balcony when the landslide occurred,” said Marcelo Barbosa, another resident.

There are conflicting reports on the number of victims in the tragedy. Police say more than 100 people are missing, but at least 35 are missing, the prosecutor’s office said.

During the day, they were forced to use an air-conditioned truck at a local morgue as more victims were brought in, while other bodies were waiting to be identified by their families.

Leandro Montero, Rio de Janeiro’s civil defense chief, worked through the night, with poor lighting on wet ground to find survivors. Of the more than 500 rescue workers, he is also a neighbor and relatives of the victims are still searching for loved ones.

“I have lived here for 44 years and have never seen anything like it … all of my friends are gone, they are all dead, they are all buried,” said resident Maria Jose Donte de Aravjo.

On Tuesday alone, higher-than-average rainfall in February flooded the streets, destroyed homes, caused landslides that hit cars and buses, and caused hundreds of meters (yards) of damage in the region’s hills. read more

This is the heaviest rainfall recorded since 1932 in Petropolis, a tourist destination in the mountains of the state of Rio de Janeiro, popularly known as the “Imperial City” since it was the summer vacation of the Brazilian royal family in the 19th century.

“I do not even have the words. I am devastated. We are all devastated for what we have lost, for our neighbors, for our friends, for our homes. We are still alive. What about those who are gone?” Resident Lucy Vieira dos Santos said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro has promised to visit the region after returning from an official visit to Russia and Hungary, pledging federal assistance to help the people and rebuild the region.

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In light of the disaster, the Brazilian Ministry of Economy allowed tax breaks for both Rio de Janeiro and Esprito Santo, where heavy rains caused damage.

Since December, heavy rains have caused floods and landslides across much of Brazil, threatening to delay harvests and forcing mining operations in the state of Minas Gerais, north of Rio, to suspend operations for some time.

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Report by Sebastian Rocandio in Petropolis and Rodrigo Vica Gaire in Rio de Janeiro; Additional report by Eduardo Simos in Sao Paulo and Marcela Ayers in Brasilia; Written by Gabriel Arrojo and Ana Mano; Editing by John Stone Street, Alison Williams, Sisu Nomiyama and Diane Kraft

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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