Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rio floods, mudslides death toll approaching 500

At least 470 people were killed and nearly 14,000 were left homeless after heavy summer rains devastated the areas north of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times on 14 January.
Rescue teams and emergency crews had been dispatched and are working to reach for survivors in the areas affected by mudslides, authorities said on Thursday.
After her aerial inspection on Thursday, newly seated President Dilma Roussef promised "firm action" to aid the victims. Over $400 million worth of assistance for the affected region was pledged by the Brazilian government.
The death toll is feared to increase as rain remained in the forecast. The massive landslides heavily damaged the mountainous north city of Rio and could take until Saturday to clear.
Several areas had power outages and roads were impassable.
"The aftermath of the rains was disastrous. We have many slides, too much mud and lots of destroyed houses," said Cmdr. Jose Paulo Miranda of the Rio de Janeiro state fire department.
Many casualties were reported in Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis according to authorities.
Aerial footages showed Nova Friburgo to be covered in debris and mud.
It was reported that three firefighters in a rescue team drowned when their vehicle was washed away by flash floods.
Officials said that heavy flooding in southeastern Brazil from late December had killed many people.
Poor people living in modest homes are particularly vulnerable to yearly rainy summer season.
The affected region experienced over 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rain in less than 24 hours.
Weather forecasters say more rain is expected through the weekend.
Local officials faulted the lenient government safety measures for the numerous deaths in Rio.
Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral said, "There has been permissiveness for decades about building houses on steep slopes. If rigid standards were applied, we'd still have victims, but not a [death] toll that's approaching 500."
Watch the attached YouTube to see the devastation of Rio de Janeiro.

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