Brazil storm death toll rises to 16 as search for missing continues

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Rescue workers and residents look for victims in an area damaged by landslides in Brazil in February. (AP pic)

AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO: The death toll from torrential downpours that triggered flash floods and landslides in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state rose to 16 Sunday, with three people still missing, authorities said.

Three days of heavy rain have battered a broad swathe of the southeastern state’s Atlantic coast, the latest in a series of deadly storms in Brazil that experts say are being made worse by climate change.

Emergency workers pulled two more bodies early Sunday from the mud and wreckage left by a landslide in the Monsuaba neighbourhood of Angra dos Reis, a seaside town 160km southwest of Rio de Janeiro city, officials said.

In all, four children and four adults were killed there, the city government said. Emergency workers are still searching for three people reported missing in Monsuaba.

Another landslide in the picturesque colonial town of Paraty killed a mother and six of her children, aged two to 17.

A seventh child was rescued alive and taken to the hospital, where he was in stable condition, the mayor’s office said.

In the Rio suburb of Mesquita, a 38-year-old man was electrocuted trying to help another person escape the flooding, officials and media reports said.

President Jair Bolsonaro said on Facebook that the federal government had sent military aircraft to help the rescue effort and dispatched national disaster response secretary Alexandre Lucas to the state of 17.5 million people.

The new storms come six weeks after flash floods and landslides killed 233 people in the scenic city of Petropolis, the Brazilian empire’s 19th-century summer capital, also in Rio state.