RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – The death toll from torrential rains that triggered flash floods and landslides in the scenic Brazilian city of Petropolis has risen to 165, the authorities said on Sunday (Feb 20), as more violent storms killed two people in another region nearby.
Rescue workers and residents searching for their missing relatives continued digging through mountains of mud and rubble in Petropolis, which President Jair Bolsonaro said last Friday looked like it had been through a “war”.
It is unclear how high the steadily rising death toll will go.
It is unlikely any more survivors will be found beneath the wreckage, the authorities said.
The dead include at least 28 children, police said.
Weather chaos continued to batter Brazil as more violent rains lashed the south-eastern state of Espirito Santo on Sunday.
The new storms killed at least two people, said emergency officials in Espirito Santo, which borders Rio de Janeiro state, where Petropolis is located.
One person was crushed by a collapsing wall and killed in the city of Alegre, and another was swept away trying to retrieve a car from severe flooding in the city of Nova Venecia, officials said.
The storms forced more than 1,200 people to evacuate their homes and destroyed another 43 people’s houses, they said.
They are the latest in a series of deadly storms to hit Brazil, which experts said are made worse by climate change.
In the past three months, at least 219 people have died in severe rainstorms, mainly in the south-eastern state of Sao Paulo and the north-eastern state of Bahia, as well as Petropolis and now Espirito Santo.
Pope Francis sent his latest message of condolences on Sunday following his Angelus prayer at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
“I express my closeness to those people hit in previous days by natural calamities,” he said, mentioning “devastated” Petropolis as well as Madagascar, hit recently by deadly cyclones.
“Lord, welcome the dead in peace, comfort the family members and support those who offer aid,” he said.