RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil: The death toll from mudslides and floods in Brazil’s colonial-era city of Petropolis, which was hit by heavy rains, has risen to 117 and is expected to increase.
After heavy downpours, the city recorded some 2.36 inches of rain, which caused more soil instability and disrupted efforts to find survivors.
"There are at least six children here and there may be more from the neighbors. We are estimating more than 10 people buried here and we need help," said local resident Fabio Alves, as quoted by Reuters.
More than 700 people had to evacuate their homes and take shelter in local schools and other makeshift accommodations.
On February 16, Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro compared the damage to a war zone.
There is also conflicting information regarding the number of victims, with the police saying more than 100 people are missing, while the prosecutor’s office claimed this number was just 35.
While bodies are awaiting identification by their families, the local morgue had to use a refrigerated truck as a back-up, as more victims were being brought in.
"I have been living here for 44 years and never saw anything like that. All my friends are gone, they are all dead, all buried," resident Maria Jose Dante de Araujo told Reuters.
The downpours in Petropolis, a tourist destination in the hills of Rio de Janeiro state, caused mudslides that flooded streets, destroyed houses, and washed away cars and buses.
It was the heaviest rainfall registered since 1932 in the state.
Resident Luci Vieira dos Santos, said, "I do not even have words. I am devastated. We are all devastated for what we have lost, for our neighbors, for our friends, our homes. And we are still alive, what about those who are gone?" as reported by Reuters.
Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro promised federal assistance to help the local people and begin the area’s reconstruction.
Brazil’s Economy Ministry also approved tax breaks for both Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo, which where damaged heavily by the downpours.
Heavy rains have caused deadly floods and landslides in many parts of Brazil since December, delaying harvests and forcing the suspension of mining operations in the state of Minas Gerais, just north of Rio.