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Deaths in Brazil Landslides Rise to 104

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Rescue workers remove the body of a mudslide victim in Petropolis, Brazil, Feb. 16, 2022.

Rescue workers and city officials in the Brazil mountain city of Petropolis say the death toll has risen to at least 104, including at least 13 children, from landslides driven by torrential rain.

Petropolis Mayor Rubens Bomtempo told reporters the number of dead could rise as rescue workers and volunteers search through the wreckage. Officials say 21 people have been found alive.

The city, located 68 kilometers north of Rio de Janeiro, was hit by torrential rainfall Tuesday that turned streets into rivers. Local meteorological agency MetSul reported that some parts of Petropolis received nearly 26 centimeters in less than six hours — more than was expected for the entire month of February.

An overview of a site of a mudslide at Morro da Oficina after pouring rains in Petropolis, Brazil, Feb. 16, 2022.
An overview of a site of a mudslide at Morro da Oficina after pouring rains in Petropolis, Brazil, Feb. 16, 2022.

The torrent destroyed houses in hillside neighborhoods and swept away cars. Officials say as many as 80 houses have been destroyed.

The search for survivors continued Thursday with some 500 rescue workers joining locals to try to find some of the missing. At least 35 people have yet to be accounted for.

"Working overnight, with poor lighting and soggy ground, is always a challenge. But I'm determined to work tirelessly in our search for survivors," Rio de Janeiro's civil defense head Leandro Monteiro said.

Rosilene Virgilio, a Petropolis resident, cried as she relayed her experience.

"There was a woman screaming, 'Help! Get me out of here!' But we couldn't do anything. The water was gushing out, the mud was gushing out," she told The Associated Press. "Our city, unfortunately, is finished."

About 420 displaced people were being housed in shelters, mostly in schools, officials said. Charities called for donations of mattresses, blankets, food, water, clothing and face masks for victims.

Men look for bodies at a mudslide at Morro da Oficina after pouring rains in Petropolis, Brazil, Feb. 16, 2022.
Men look for bodies at a mudslide at Morro da Oficina after pouring rains in Petropolis, Brazil, Feb. 16, 2022.

Earlier Wednesday, the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department said more than 180 firefighters, soldiers and other rescue workers were at the scene, combing the mud for survivors. Video shared on social media showed extensive damage and vehicles floating in the streets.

From his Twitter account, President Jair Bolsonaro, who had traveled to Moscow, said he had spoken with Regional Development Minister Rogerio Marinho and Economy Minister Paulo Guedes to deliver assistance to the city.

Since December, heavy rains have triggered deadly floods and landslides in northeast Brazil and Sao Paulo state, threatening to delay harvests in the midwestern region and briefly forcing the suspension of mining in the state of Minas Gerais.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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