Brazil floods: More than 500 dead

Published on Friday, 14 January 2011 09:32
Posted by Scott Buckler

 More than 500 people are now known to have died in floods in south-eastern Brazil, the country's worst natural disaster for several decades

 


Heavy rain has brought massive mudslides down on several towns, where thousands have been made homeless. Police say the number of dead is likely to rise further. The death toll has now surpassed the number killed in mudslides in Caraguatatuba in Sao Paulo state in 1967, in which up to 430 people died.


'It's all gone'

Rescue workers will resume searching for survivors in the mountainous Serrana region, north of Rio de Janeiro, on Friday. Many spent Thursday scrabbling with their bare hands through debris.

On her visit to the area, President Dilma Rousseff promised a shipment of seven tonnes of medicines.

In the Campo Grande area of Teresopolis, which was earlier cut off, rescuers found people pulling bodies from the mud.

One Campo Grande resident, Carols Eurico, told the Associated Press: "I have friends still lost in all of this mud. It's all gone." If you reach the city centre of Teresopolis, you might not think the scale of destruction was too great, but on the outskirts and other neighbourhoods - such as Campo Grande and Posse - there is a sense of just how much was affected.

In these places, there is mud everywhere - some of it more than 3m (8.5ft) high. Cars are destroyed and turned upside down, from small sports cars to big trucks. The river that runs through the city is known to be calm, but it is now completely flooded. Most of the houses destroyed were poor quality, made out of timber. Emergency services are everywhere.

Many of the people who lost their homes have taken shelter in the local gymnasium. Every now and then, a new list comes out of people that have been confirmed dead.

Surprisingly at the gym, most people managed to remain calm and were chatting, although many have lost a friend or family member. But everyone in Teresopolis can feel just how terrible this disaster has been. Another resident told AFP news agency: "One woman tried to save her children, but her two-month-old baby was carried away by a torrent like a doll."

The Brazilian armed forces have brought in a field hospital and hundreds of people have taken refuge in the gymnasium in Teresopolis. But the number of injured was threatening to overwhelm the medical services.

Jorge Mario, the mayor of the Teresopolis, said: "There are three or four neighbourhoods that were totally destroyed in rural areas. There are hardly any houses standing there and all the roads and bridges are destroyed."

In one dramatic filmed rescue, 53-year-old Ilair Pereira de Souza was pulled by rope from a destroyed house surrounded by raging water.

"I thought I was going to die," she said.

Ms Pereira de Souza had jumped with her dog Beethoven but was forced to let him go to survive.

"If I had tried to save him, I would have died. The poor thing. He stayed for a moment looking me in the eyes, and then he was swept away."

Source: ©BBC News

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