6 Dead after powerful storm pounds Rio de Janeiro
A storm that brought torrential rains and tropical storm-force winds to Rio de Janeiro left six people dead, Brazilian authorities said Thursday.
Two people were killed and two others injured when a home collapsed in the western part of the city, while a mudslide in Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela (shantytown) claimed one life.
In the south-side favela of Vidigal, one person was crushed by a wall that collapsed and two perished when a tree fell on a bus.
Firefighters took a young woman in Vidigal to a hospital, but there was no word on the nature or severity of her injuries.
Wednesday night’s storm dumped a month’s worth of rain on Rio de Janeiro in the space of four hours, authorities said, leading to flooding and mudslides.
Dozens of vehicles were swept away by rushing floodwaters, while winds of up to 110 km/h (68 mph) in some parts of the city toppled utility poles and roughly 170 trees, the municipal government said.
Traffic on Avenida Niemeyer, one of Rio’s main thoroughfares, had to be diverted after a stretch of the elevated bike path that runs parallel to the road collapsed.
It will take “more than a day to normalize” the situation on Avenida Niemeyer, Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella told reporters.
The mayor declared three days of mourning for the people who died in the storm.
Additional heavy rain is predicted for later Thursday, raising the prospect of more mudslides.
Roughly 80,000 families live in areas that are at risk for further mudslides, the governor of Rio de Janeiro state said after surveying the city from the air.
“That is the fruit of the abandonment of urban organization in the cities, especially the city of Rio,” Wilson Witzel told a press conference.
“They have closed their eyes to disorderly occupation and the result, unhappily, are these tragedies we are seeing,” he said, apparently referring to the proliferation of precarious structures in the favelas, most of which are perched on hillsides.
For decades, Witzel said, “little has been done” to stop the spread of unsafe, makeshift homes across Rio de Janeiro state.
“In recent years they have concerned themselves with spending rivers of money, especially to favor corruption, and the population has been left without assistance,” the governor said.