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Rescue workers and residents search for victims in an area affected by landslides in Petropolis. Alamy

'Enormous destruction': Search continues for survivors after devastating floods in Brazil

More than 130 bodies have so far been recovered.

THE SEARCH for people buried by a deluge of mud that swept through the Brazilian city of Petropolis continues, leaving what President Jair Bolsonaro described as “scenes of war”.

A total of 136 bodies have been retrieved to date, according to civil defense officials, in the normally scenic tourist town some 60 kilometers north of Rio de Janeiro.

But after three days, hopes of finding more survivors were fading fast. Petropolis mayor Rubens Bomtempo told a press conference yesterday that “it is difficult after so much time” to find anyone alive.

On Tuesday, the streets of the city were turned into torrential rivers of mud that swept away homes, cars and trees following the heaviest rains to hit the region since 1932, Rio governor Claudio Castro said.

“We saw enormous destruction, like scenes of war,” Bolsonaro told reporters after his helicopter flyover Friday.

He had headed straight for Petropolis on his return to Brazil after an official visit to Russia and Hungary.

Officials said late Friday that 218 people were still missing, some of whom are likely to be among the 57 bodies that are still unidentified, according to authorities.

On Friday morning, the alarm bells rang once again in areas at high risk of landslides in the city of 300,000 people.

rescue-workers-walk-at-a-site-of-a-mudslide-at-morro-da-oficina-after-pouring-rains-in-petropolis-brazil-february-16-2022-reutersricardo-moraes Rescue workers walk at a site of a mudslide. Alamy Alamy

“There is a risk of landslides… be careful, move to a safe place,” came the message over loudhailers amid renewed heavy rain in the early morning, which later subsided.

“Everyone is very frightened and jumps at the slightest noise,” said Atenor Alves de Alcantara, a 67-year-old retiree whose home was in the path of the water.

“It is good that the President is visiting us, but it won’t change anything,” he added.

More than 500 firefighters with helicopters, excavation machinery and sniffer dogs continued the search, even as hope dwindled of finding anyone alive.

Hundreds of volunteers were lending a hand to residents digging through the mud themselves in a frantic search for missing loved ones.

In the Alta de Serra neighborhood, 80 houses were engulfed, and the bodies of 98 people have been recovered since Tuesday.

“There could still be 50 people under there,” said Roberto Amaral, coordinator of the fire brigade’s special rescue group.

“We would like to finish the search as soon as possible, but we will work until the last body is removed,” he added.

– © AFP 2022

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