FILE PHOTO: Picture of the destruction caused by a flood in Honorio Bicalho, district of Nova Lima, taken on January 12, 2022, following heavy rain in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. (Photo by Douglas MAGNO / AFP)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) — Landslides and flooding triggered by heavy rainfall killed at least 18 people Tuesday in a tourist town in the hills above Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian firefighters said.
“So far, 18 deaths caused by landslides and floods have been confirmed” in recent hours, the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department said in a statement.
It said more than 180 firefighters and other rescue workers were at the scene in the picturesque hill town of Petropolis where Brazil’s last emperor Pedro II is buried, 68 kilometers (42 miles) north of the city of Rio.
City hall declared a “state of disaster” as images spread on social media of destroyed houses and cars swept away by floodwater.
Many shops were completely inundated by the rising waters which gushed down the streets of the historic city center.
Some parts of Petropolis received up to 260 millimeters (10 inches) of water in less than six hours, more than was expected for the whole month of February, according to the meteorological agency MetSul.
The heaviest downpour had passed but more moderate rainfall was expected to continue for several hours, authorities said.
President Jair Bolsonaro, on an official trip to Russia, said on Twitter that he was keeping abreast of “the tragedy” and asked his ministers to provide “immediate aid to the victims.”
Earlier this month, floods and landslides caused by torrential rain killed at least 28 people in the southeast of the country, mostly in Sao Paulo state and the region north of Rio.
In January 2011, more than 900 people died in the mountainous region of Rio due to heavy rains that caused flooding and landslides in a large area including Petropolis and neighboring cities Nova Friburgo and Teresopolis.
© Agence France-Presse