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At least 176 dead in Brazil floods, heavy rain

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Heavy rain is continuing in the Brazilian city of Petropolis, where 176 people have died in the past week. Photo: Getty
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Heavy rain that devastated part of the Brazilian city of Petropolis have left at least 176 people dead and 200 injured in what is thought to be the city’s worst weather-related disaster.

Since last Tuesday, the storms have left considerable destruction in the imperial city, in Brazil’s southern Rio de Janeiro state.

More than 100 people remain missing in the mudslides and flooding, the local Fire Department said on Monday (local time).

This is already the worst weather-related disaster to hit Petropolis, topping similar wild weather in 1988 and 2011, when dozens of people lost their lives amid heavy rains, landslides and flooding.

More than 500 firefighters are working to locate more victims. Their efforts were interrupted on Monday morning by more rain and heavy winds that are still lashing the region.

Among the 176 known dead are at least 29 children.

City authorities in Petropolis, which is about 70 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro, reported that as of Sunday night 114 people who had died in assorted weather-related incidents had been buried in the local cemetery.

So far, search and rescue teams have managed to rescue 24 people alive from the mud and ruins of collapsed buildings. They have been taken to local hospitals.

About 850 people have been driven from their homes and are receiving social assistance at 20 support centres that have been established around the city, including in various churches and schools.

In addition, the Brazilian navy on Sunday finished setting up a mobile hospital in the city. It will provide 12 beds and five medical assistance stations for minor injuries and other first-aid-like treatment for local residents.

The forecast was for more bad weather on Monday. It might affect search and rescue operations due to the instability of the water-saturated ground, which could lead to more of the landslides that have already taken many lives.

Civil Defence authorities on Sunday sent further text messages to Petropolis residents and sounded warning sirens amid the possibility of new downpours.

Last Tuesday night, Petropolis was devastated by the worst rains in almost a century. The deluge caused dozens of mudslides, flooding across the city and flash floods that swept away everything in their path.

Last Thursday, it began raining again bringing more flooding and aggravating the city’s problems. Elsewhere, local residents are trying – little by little – to get back to normal routines amid the heavy load of mud that has cascaded onto streets and homes from surrounding hillsides.