Disasters & Accidents

Greenpeace: Deaths in flood-hit Brazilian city a forseeable tragedy

Rio de Janeiro, Mar 15 (EFE).- Environmental watchdog Greenpeace held a demonstration here Tuesday, the one-month anniversary of deadly flash floods and mudslides in the southeastern Brazilian city of Petropolis, to demand government action to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.

Torrential rains on Feb. 15 in that hillside city of Rio de Janeiro state left 233 dead – including 44 minors – and a around 1,000 people homeless, while rescue teams continue to search for four missing persons.

Located just an hour and a half by car from the metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, Petropolis received 259 millimeters (10 inches) of rain in six hours starting in the afternoon, a downpour that turned several streets into rivers and triggered more than 1,400 mudslides in different parts of the city.

Greenpeace marked the one-month anniversary of the tragedy by holding a protest across the street from Guanabara Palace, the seat of the government of Rio de Janeiro state.

A handful of activists stood in front of a nearly two-meter-high structure that was covered with flowers and the sirens frequently used in Brazil’s favelas (shantytowns) to warn people to evacuate their homes due to the danger of rain-triggered flooding and mudslides.

“233 Vidas Soterradas Pelo Descaso” (233 Lives Buried by Indifference), “A Crise Climatica Mata! Chega de Abandono” (The Climate Crisis Kills! No More Neglect) and “Mulheres e Criancas Sao As Principais Vitimas Dos Eventos Extremos” (Women and Children are the Main Victims of Extreme Events) were some of the signs the activists displayed.

“We’ve come to pressure the governors to adopt more effective measures to halt the impacts of climate change, such as the mudslides and flooding that have occurred over the past few months in different Brazilian states like Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Bahia and Acre,” the coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil’s Climate and Justice Campaign, Rodrigo Jesus Santos, told Efe.

According to the activist, tragedies like the one in Petropolis are avoidable if authorities take steps to adapt to climate change-caused extreme events such as more intense and frequent storms and flooded rivers.

Greenpeace says Petropolis and other cities in Rio de Janeiro state are particularly vulnerable due to their location on hillsides, haphazard urban sprawl, the diversion of rivers and intense deforestation of surrounding areas.

The Rio de Janeiro state government has maps of homes located in high-risk districts, including hills susceptible to mudslides and flood-prone regions, but thus far has taken no steps to relocate those residents, according to the environmental watchdog. EFE


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