Third day of searches in Petrópolis. The worst rains since 1932 have already left a partial balance of almost 130 dead in the Brazilian “imperial city”, where the neighbors continued this Friday digging with picks and buckets to try to find the dozens of disappeared.
“An image almost of war” and “intense destruction”, described the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who, just arrived from his trip to Russia and Hungary, flew by helicopter over the affected areas accompanied by several of his ministers.
Warning sirens play intermittently in Morro de la Oficina, one of the places most affected by the tremendous storm that has been plaguing Petrópolis since Tuesday night and has destroyed part of the municipality, in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro.RELATED
In a part of that hill, where there used to be houses, today there is a gigantic mountain of mud and destroyed materials on which rescue teams and groups of neighbors are working in search of a halo of hope.
Ana María Pereira, 49, suspects that she lost her missing 16-year-old niece in the Morro de la Oficina avalanche. She was saved because she was selling candy on the street and climbed a wall when the flood came. She is now housed in a shelter.
“I felt a lot of sadness seeing so many bodies,” he told Efe.
Far from abating, another downpour caused new flooding on Thursday, forcing authorities to hastily evacuate some neighborhoods at the risk of more landslides.
According to Civil Defense, 436 landslides have already been registered and there is a possibility that more will occur, as heavy rainfall is expected in the coming hours.
“I am afraid that Petrópolis will end,” Eva Barros, 42, who cannot return home because the area “is cut off” and “everything is falling,” told Efe.
The ground is very unstable and, in these conditions, it is difficult to find survivors.
This also prevents sending a large number of brigade members to the most sensitive areas, according to the governor of Rio, Claudio Castro, in response to criticism from part of the local population for the lack of troops.
At the moment, 24 people have been rescued alive.
Funeral homes are full, many businesses are still closed and many roads remain impassable. More than 140 vehicles have been removed from the rivers and streets of Petrópolis, according to the mayor’s office.
Schools and churches have been transformed into shelters and donation warehouses for the at least 850 displaced people. The vaccination campaign against covid-19 remains suspended in the middle of the “omicron wave”.
The mayor of Petrópolis, Rubens Bomtempo, reported that they are working to recover essential services, such as electricity, transportation or garbage collection, and that the search for more victims continues, “which are still many.”
And it is that there is not an accurate balance of disappeared either. The Police put them at 218, but the Prosecutor’s Office reduces that number to about 60.
More than 800 soldiers in the area
For his part, Defense Minister General Walter Braga Netto pointed out that some 820 members of the Armed Forces have traveled to Petrópolis.
He also declared that “technical engineers” are arriving to carry out soil analysis, given the strong geographic instability of the city, which is surrounded by steep slopes and has some 300,000 inhabitants.
Tragic months for Brazil
Between the end of 2021 and the beginning of this 2022, three other Brazilian states (Bahía, São Paulo and Minas Gerais) also suffered intense storms that together caused nearly a hundred deaths and some 150,000 evacuees.
Behind this increase in rainfall in Brazil there are natural phenomena, such as La Niña, but meteorological experts warn that the trend is for these events to become increasingly violent due to climate change.
These types of disasters are also aggravated by the lack of urban planning and preventive measures.
In fact, it is not the first time that a disaster of this magnitude has occurred in the mountainous region of Rio, where in 2011 a similar episode caused 900 deaths and a hundred disappeared.
“Many times we do not have a way to prevent everything that happens in these 8.5 million square kilometers (total surface of Brazil),” Bolsonaro justified.
Reliable, trustworthy and easy. Multimedia news agency in Spanish.