Death toll in Brazil’s Petropolis mudslides, floods hits 176; more than 110 missing

Rio De Janeiro (Reuters) – The death toll from last week’s mudslides and floods in the Brazilian city of Petropolis reached 176 as of Monday, Rio de Janeiro’s state civil defense said, with more than 110 people still missing.

Downpours in the colonial-era city exceeded the average for the entire month of February last Tuesday alone, causing mudslides that flooded streets, destroyed houses, washed away cars and buses, and left gashes hundreds of yards wide on the region’s mountainsides.

Residents described the agony of waiting for news on their missing friends and relatives.

“I’ve been living here for 16 years. I lost my 83-year old mom, a 11-year old nephew and a 13-year old niece who is still buried under the debris. I’m living a nightmare, and I have nowhere to go,” said local resident Iva Machado, 62.

Responding to the disaster, several Brazilian states sent reinforcements to help searching for missing people and cleaning up the debris alongside Rio’s fire department.

Tuesday’s rainfall was the heaviest registered since 1932 in Petropolis, a tourist destination in the hills of Rio de Janeiro state, popularly known as the “Imperial City” as it was the summer getaway of Brazilian royalty in the 19th century.

According to Brazil’s National Meteorology Institute, weather forecasts for Petropolis are for a cloudy Monday with isolated showers, which could hamper rescue efforts.

Since December, heavy rains have triggered deadly floods and landslides across much of Brazil, while threatening to delay harvests and briefly forcing the suspension of mining operations in the state of Minas Gerais, just north of Rio.