At least 94 people have died after heavy rains sent devastating mudslides and floods through a mountainous region of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state.
Petrópolis, the “imperial city” which was the summer getaway of Brazil’s monarchs in the 19th century, was directly in the path of the deluge when it hit on Tuesday.
The city’s mayor, Rubens Bomtempo, said the number of dead could keep on rising as searchers picked through the wreckage. Twenty-one people had been recovered alive.
Rio de Janeiro state governor, Claudio Castro, told reporters in Petrópolis: “The situation is almost like war. Cars hanging from poles, cars overturned, lots of mud and water.”
Civilians joined the official recovery efforts on Wednesday. Among them were Priscila Neves and her siblings, who looked through the mud for any sign of their disappeared parents, but found only clothing. Neves said she had given up hope of finding her parents alive.
Petrópolis city hall declared three days of mourning. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on a trip to Russia, said on Twitter that he instructed his ministers to deliver immediate support to the afflicted. “May God comfort the family members of the victims,” he wrote.
South-eastern Brazil has been punished with heavy rains since the start of the year, with more than 40 deaths recorded between incidents in Minas Gerais state in early January and São Paulo state later the same month.