Sun, Jan 03, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Mudslides wreak havoc in Brazil

‘SAD OUTCOME’Officials said there could be more deaths after mudslides wiped away parts of a resort hotel. Nearly 80 mudslides were reported in the region

AP , ANGRA DOS REIS, BRAZIL

A rain-soaked slab of hillside collapsed on three houses and an upscale waterfront lodge after New Year’s celebrations on an island resort in this city near Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 19 people, authorities said. Another mudslide elsewhere in the city killed 11.

Ten people were injured by the resort slide early on Friday, and about 120 rescuers scrambled through mud and around toppled trees and large rocks to search for more survivors. Police helicopters and navy vessels helped in the rescue effort.

In addition to the two deadly mudslides in Angra dos Reis, local authorities said nearly 80 mudslides were reported throughout the region, toppling trees and destroying power lines. Rain-related deaths in Rio de Janeiro state from three days of heavy rains reached 50, officials said, and more rain was predicted across the region.

“People had never seen so muc rain in this region,” Rio de Janeiro Vice Governor Luiz Fernando ­Pezao told Globo TV.

Pezao indicated he feared the death toll could rise.

“We’ll have to wait for the rescue efforts, but we’ll likely encounter a very sad outcome,” he said.

The rains prompted Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to briefly interrupt his vacation in northeastern Brazil for an emergency meeting with civil defense authorities.

Governor Sergio Cabral, who was expected to visit the area yesterday, released a statement lamenting “this sad and painful” moment.

The mudslide at the Pousada Sankay resort apparently happened after tourists had returned to their rooms following the New Year’s celebration at the lodge on Ilha Grande, a 90-minute ferry ride from Angra dos Reis on the mainland, fire department commander Pedro Machado said.

Police said some of the dead may have been in the houses. They did not immediately release the identities or nationalities of the victims.

Coroner Frank Perlini told Globo TV that a boy and a teenage girl were among the victims, which also included at least three men and three women.

“We were told that many of these houses here were rented by tourists for the holidays,” Pezao said.

A bulldozer was brought in to help in the search for survivors.

Bodies recovered from the rubble were being transported off the island by boats and helicopters. Authorities said the search was expected to continue through the night.

Witnesses told local media the hillside lodge and the houses, which can only be accessed by boat, collapsed after being struck by a slab of earth nearly 300m wide.

A broad, raw scar of dirt remained on the jungle hillside above the lodge, which was smashed by mud, trees and other vegetation.

Only a handful of houses and small patches of vegetation were left unscathed.

Wooden pieces of the lodge were seen floating near the shore and on the beach.

The hotel, which advertises nightly rates of about US$200 and can accommodate 50 guests, was reportedly full. The lodge was inaugurated in 1994, its Web site said.

Other mudslides killed 20 people across Rio de Janeiro state on Thursday, mostly in shanties collapsed under mud or rain in the greater Rio de Janeiro city area. A three-year-old girl died in a hospital on Friday after being rescued from one of the mudslides a day earlier. Her parents also died.

Two key highways linking Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo were damaged and temporarily shut down because of the heavy rains.

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