Exhausted Brazilian rescuers faced another day of grim searching through a wall of mud yesterday as hopes fade of finding survivors, with almost 400 people now feared dead after some of the worst rains in decades.
Civil Defense officials said late on Friday that at least 219 people had been killed across Rio de Janeiro state since Monday when some of the heaviest rains in half a century unleashed floods and mudslides.
The heavy rain also forced some 50,000 people to leave their homes, officials said, either because their homes were damaged or because they were ordered to leave due to fear of fresh landslides.
Rescue teams have pulled out scores of bodies since part of a hillside collapsed on Wednesday, sliding onto a shantytown built on a landfill in Niteroi, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, burying an estimated 200 people.
The floods of the past days tore through the metropolitan area’s precarious hillside slums, or favelas. Niteroi was hardest hit, with at least 132 dead, according to the civil defense authorities.
Some 150 people worked through the night searching for survivors in Niteroi’s Morro do Bumba shantytown, with the help of eight excavators, as a stream of trucks came and went loaded with debris.
“There is a possibility” of finding survivors, Niteroi Civil Defense chief, Marival Gomes said. “It’s not easy but there is hope.”
Firefighters working at the site since Wednesday however appear to be working on the assumption that there are no survivors.
They said there was little chance of finding new survivors after part of the hillside fell away and swallowed everything in its path, including 50 houses, a day-care center and a pizzeria.
A handful of people were rescued from the mud in the few hours after the landslide, but after that only bodies have appeared, according to reporters on the scene.
State Governor Sergio Cabral briefly visited Morro do Bumba late on Friday.
“We are very worried about diseases that could spread from the decomposing bodies buried under tons of dirt and garbage,” Cabral said.
Cabral said he asked the Brazilian military to help in rescue efforts. Aid will include two army field hospitals to help survivors, he said.
The federal government released US$113 million in aid for municipalities in Rio state affected by the floods and mudslides, Cabral said.
The number of people swept away remains unknown, but firefighters have estimated, based on witness testimonies, that some 200 people were buried under the rubble.
Cristiane Oliveira, 27, saved her daughters from the mudslide but lost her mother, uncles and cousins and still waited to see their bodies emerge from the piles of earth.
“I look and I think, ‘Everyone is under there.’ It’s really sad,” Oliveira said.
In Rio de Janeiro city, where 67 people have been killed, Mayor Eduardo Paes signed a decree authorizing police to force people out of homes located in dangerous areas as intermittent rain continued to fall.
“The risk of new mudslides is enormous, even if it stops raining, because the ground is extremely flooded,” said Jose Paulo Miranda de Queiroz, deputy commander of Rio’s firefighters.
Amid stormy conditions, the navy released an alert for massive waves of more than 4m expected on Rio’s beaches.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread