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.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel