Thu, Apr 11, 2019 - Page 7 News List

At least 10 dead in Rio flooding caused by rain


A bus is trapped under a fallen tree in the Leblon neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Heavy rains on Tuesday killed at least 10 people and left a trail of destruction in Rio de Janeiro, raising questions about the city’s preparedness to deal with recurring extreme weather.

Torrents of water gushed down streets, sweeping up vehicle and uprooting trees after rains that began at about rush hour on Monday evening.

Rains slowly weakened by Tuesday evening, but Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella said the city was still in “crisis” mode, the highest of three levels.

Schools were closed and people urged to avoid non-essential traffic until further notice.

City officials said 152mm of rain fell in just four hours on Monday night, more than the average for the whole month of April.

The botanical garden neighborhood, a tourist destination, was one of the worst hit areas, receiving 231mm in a 24-hour period.

Local television showed firefighters in that neighborhood wading through knee-deep water pulling a small boatload of children evacuated from a school bus on a flooded street.

Sirens sounded in 20 flood-prone areas of the city, alerting people to make their way to pre-established safe spaces.

However, no alarm was given in the Babilonia slum, which sits on a hill behind the iconic Sugarloaf mountain.

The fire department said two women there died in a mudslide and local residents complained about the lack of warning.

The mayor, acknowledging the city’s lack of preparedness for the deluge, said sirens did not sound in Babilonia because the water had not reached the minimum threshold to activate the alarms.

He said officials would look into lowering this threshold.

Hillside slums are particularly vulnerable to mudslides and city officials said more than 100 communities in Rio have been identified as having “high geological risks.”

Crivella said that Rio has plans to improve safety, but complained of a lack of federal funding.

The mayor said that a study carried out by the city identified about 200,000 road potholes and rainwater networks that needed fixing.

“We’re talking about hundreds of millions” of reals, the mayor said on Globo TV news, pressing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for more federal funding.

A storm with torrential downpours and strong winds just two months ago killed six people, prompting Rio residents to ask what the city is doing to protect them from routine weather events.

Rio’s fire department said that by Tuesday evening it had registered 10 deaths from the latest storm, including two adults and a child who were buried in a vehicle by a mudslide.

According to news portal G1, the three victims were a little girl, her grandmother and their taxi driver.

Firefighters spent hours trying to reach the vehicle, going through mud, rubble and fallen trees.

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