Disasters & Accidents

Death toll from Brazil downpours climbs to 54

Sao Paulo, Feb 24 (EFE).- The death toll from rain-triggered landslides in southeastern Brazil has risen to 54 following the discovery of five more bodies Friday in Sao Sebastiao, the coastal city hardest hit by the disaster.

A bulletin released by the Sao Paulo state government said rescue workers are still looking for 30 people who remain missing in two cities of that tourist region due to last weekend’s storms, which struck during the country’s Carnival festivities.

Authorities added that 4,066 people are being housed in shelters, churches, schools and gymnasiums in six cities after their homes were destroyed or deemed to be at risk due to the threat of more downpours in the coming days.

The search efforts are focused on Sao Sebastiao and the neighboring city of Ubatuba, where most of the deaths have been reported.

The landslides triggered by historic rainfall amounts occurred in the mountains that flank that coastal region, burying makeshift homes built in recent decades on those slopes under torrents of earth, rock and water.

Due to the high number of people left homeless and requiring medical care, a navy aircraft carrier that is serving as a floating hospital was anchored Thursday off the coast of Sao Sebastiao to ease the pressure on area hospitals. Fifty doctors are working on board the ship, which is equipped with 300 beds.

A federal government “crisis Cabinet” headed by Integration and Regional Development Minister Waldez Goes also has been set up in the area.

On Friday, those federal officials met with the mayors of 12 cities on Sao Paulo’s coast to analyze the situation in each location and further fine-tune existing emergency measures.

Goes told reporters that the heavy loss of life from the disaster can be attributed to severe housing problems in Brazil, where he said “4 million people live in high-risk zones.”

Warning that climate change is making the problems more severe, he said the government has already started carrying out a nationwide program for the orderly relocation of people from at-risk areas. EFE


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