Hundreds killed in Brazil floods and mudslides

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Survivors of mudslides in mountain towns north of Rio recounted today the horrors of watching homes swept away by walls of earth and water and of frantic efforts to dig with bare hands and reach trapped neighbours.



Officials and a television report indicated the death toll in the slides climbed above 350, with at least 50 people still missing.



"We were like zombies, covered in mud, in the dark, digging and digging," said Geisa Carvalho, 19, about the minutes after slides hit on Wednesday around 3am in Teresopolis.



Her mother, Vania Ramos, described how she and Geisa awoke to a tremendous rumble as tons of earth above their neighbourhood slid down a sheer granite rock face. The power was out, but by lightning flashes they could see a torrent of mud and water rushing just metres from their home — and the remnants of their neighbours' houses that were swept far down a hill.



"I don't even have the words to describe what I've seen," said Ramos, as she was started on a five-mile hike to the main part of her town, hoping to find food and water. "A lot of our friends are dead or missing. There are people we may never find."



Carvalho and Ramos said they ran out of their home moments after the mudslide and joined neighbours in their Caleme neighbourhood as they dug with bare hands and sticks in efforts to find neighbours. They quickly located a family of four buried under the rubble of their home — and said another neighbour's 2-month-old baby was washed away in his crib and has yet to be found.



Nearly all the homes in their neighbourhood were swept to the bottom of a hill and turned inside out. Tangles of plumbing were wrapped in trees, children's' clothing littered the earth, massive trees were tossed about like toothpicks. A river of water and mud flowed through the streets as a light rain continued to fall.



Only a few rescuers had managed by today to hike to their neighbourhood and they only had shovels and machetes to help them look for survivors. Residents said they had no food, water or medication, and many made the long walk to the main area of Teresopolis to get help.



Torrential rains that have hit Rio state since the weekend caused widespread and massive mudslides early on Wednesday. Officials and a television report said 356 people were killed in Teresopolis and two other mountain towns, about 40 miles north of Rio. Such disasters hit Brazil annually in its rainy summer season and unduly punish the poor, who often live in rickety shacks perched perilously on steep hillsides with little or no foundations.



According to the Rio state's Civil Defence department, 152 people were killed in Teresopolis and 36 in neighboring Petropolis. The Globo TV network, citing the mayor's office of Nova Friburgo, said 168 people were killed in that town. The Civil Defence department earlier said 107 were dead there; the new figure could not immediately be confirmed.



Morgues in the city's were full and bodies covered in blankets were laid out in streets.



Officials said the area hit by slides had seen 26 centimetres of rain fall in less than 24 hours. More rain, possibly heavy at times, is forecast through the weekend.



Survivors across the region were seen wading through waist-high water, carrying what belongings they could, trying to reach higher ground. Many tried desperately to find relatives, though phone service was out in the region and many people were still missing hours after the rain stopped.



"There are so many disappeared — and so many that will probably never be found," said Angela Marina de Carvalho Silva, a resident of Teresopolis who feared she may have lost 15 relatives, including five nieces and nephews.



"There was nothing we could do. It was hell," she said in a telephone interview.



Carvalho Silva took refuge in a neighbour's house on high ground with her husband and daughter, and watched the torrential rain carry away cars, tree branches and animals and rip apart the homes of friends and family.



"It's over. There's nothing. The water came down and swept everything away," said her husband, Sidney Silva.







President Dilma Rousseff flew by helicopter over the region today. The nation's Health Ministry said it was sending seven tonnes of medications to the area, enough to treat 45,000 people for a month, it said in a statement.



The mayor of Teresopolis, Jorge Mario Sedlacek, decreed a state of emergency, calling the calamity "the worst to hit the town." About 800 search-and-rescue workers from the state's civil defence department and firefighters were digging for survivors, but hopes were dimming.



Deadly flooding and slides hit neighboring states in recent days as well.



Heavy rainfall caused havoc in Minas Gerais state north of Rio, where 16 people died in the past month and dozens of communities are in a state of emergency.



In Sao Paulo, flooding paralyzed main thoroughfares in the capital city since Sunday and 21 people died in collapsed homes, mudslides and flooding throughout the state.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments