Sat, Jan 07, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Rio State prepares for mudslides, flooding

MAXIMUM ALERT:More than 1,000 families had been evacuated from a town that flooded after a dike burst under heavy rain, and emergency teams are standing by

Reuters, RIO DE JANEIRO

Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro State placed emergency teams on maximum alert on Thursday as heavy rains that have displaced 35,000 residents were forecast to continue, reviving fears of mudslides and flooding that killed about 900 people last year.

Residents scrambled to gather their belongings and flee in the Tres Vendas district of Campos de Goytacazes in the north of the state after a dike ruptured, sending water rushing through the streets.

Emergency workers said more than 1,000 families from Tres Vendas were evacuated to shelters.

“We’re trying to put up stone barriers to prevent the water -advancing, but it’s difficult,” said Rosinha Garotinho, prefect of Campos and a former state governor.

She said there was no immediate risk of flooding in other districts of Campos.

Rio de Janeiro State Governor Sergio Cabral said the maximum alert, which requires emergency teams to intensify preparations, was focused on vulnerable towns in the north and northeast of the state, as well as the Serrana region 97km north of the capital.

A year ago, heavy rain caused mudslides in the Serrana region that killed about 900 people, many of whom were asleep when rivers of mud buried them in their homes.

Local media reported eight people had died by Thursday after floods in neighboring Minas Gerais State and 87 towns there declared a state of emergency.

A pensioner was reported to have been killed while trying to save personal belongings in one flooded town in northeastern Rio de Janeiro.

Photographs of the ruptured dike in Tres Vendas showed muddy water rushing through a gap in the dike about the width of three cars.

A motorist stared at what had been a stretch of road on top of the dike that had been swept away.

“Now, about 40 percent of the streets [of Tres Vendas] are -engulfed in water and we expect it will reach them all,” Major Edison Pessanha of the Civil Defense authority said, according to a local government Web site.

Campos de Goytacazes, about 280km north of Rio de Janeiro, is adjacent to the offshore Campos Basin from where about 80 percent of Brazil’s oil is pumped.

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