At least 44 people have been killed and dozens missing in torrential rains in northeastern Brazil, the government said Sunday, with rescuers capitalizing on torrential rains to search for survivors.
“We have 44 dead, 56 missing, 25 injured, 3,957 homeless and 533 displaced,” Regional Development Minister Daniel Ferreira told a news conference in Recife, the capital of the northeastern state of Pernambuco.
The catastrophe is the latest in a series of catastrophic landslides and floods caused by extreme weather in Brazil.
The death toll from Saturday has risen to 34, with at least 28 people killed in landslides as rivers overflowed due to heavy rains and mudslides swept away everything in their path.
Authorities warned that heavy rain was forecast for Sunday, but the storm subsided in the morning.
As the weather cleared, about 1,200 workers resumed search and rescue operations, state officials said, but Ferreira called for caution.
“Even though the rains have stopped now, we are forecasting heavy rains for the next few days,” he said.
“So the first thing is to maintain a self-defense system.”
Between Friday night and Saturday morning, rainfall in some parts of the Recife reached 70 percent of the forecast for the entire month of May.
Pictures circulated in local media showed rescuers and volunteers clearing a pile of rubble at Jardim Montevard on the border between the municipalities of Recife and Jabotao dos Guarrapes, where 19 people were killed in a landslide Saturday morning that destroyed unprotected homes.
Luiz Estevao Aguirre, who lives in a different municipality, lost 11 relatives in the disaster, he told TV Globo.
“My sister, my brother-in-law, 11 members of my family have died. It was hard … I didn’t expect it,” he said in a tearful voice.
Brazilian President Zaire Bolsonaro said on Sunday that he would visit Recife on Monday after the “tragedy”.
In the past year, hundreds of Brazilians have died in floods and landslides caused by heavy rains.
In February, more than 230 people were killed in the city of Petropolis in the state of Rio de Janeiro, the 19th-century summer capital of Brazil’s then-empire.
Floods and landslides killed 14 more people in the state earlier this month.
Experts say Brazil’s monsoon rains are increasing due to La Nina – the cyclical coldness of the Pacific Ocean – and climate change.
As a warmer atmosphere contains more water, global warming increases the risk and severity of floods from extreme rainfall.
The risks of heavy rainfall are increased due to the topography and poor construction in the shantytown built in steep areas.
Heavy rainfall in Parnambuco and, to a lesser extent, four other northeastern states is the result of a common seasonal phenomenon called the “East Wave,” according to Metzul Agency meteorologist Estail Sias.
He explained that they were areas of “atmospheric disturbance” that moved from Africa to the northeastern coast of Brazil.
“This instability in other parts of the Atlantic creates hurricanes, but in northeastern Brazil it has the potential for heavy rainfall and even thunderstorms,” he said.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)