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Torrential rain, mudslides in Brazil kill 257

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) _ Summer rains sent tons of red mud and torrents of water rushing down mountainsides in towns outside Rio, enveloping homes of rich and poor alike and killing at least 257 people in 24 hours. Some survivors clung to trees to escape the water and landslides.

Rescuers used heavy machinery, shovels and bare hands to dig through debris in a search for survivors Wednesday. It was not immediately clear how many people were rescued. At least 50 remained missing, and officials feared that figure would rise.

In Teresopolis, a town 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Rio, the rain overflowed creeks and flash floods swept over already water-logged mountainsides. Brick and wooden shacks built on hillsides stripped of trees, washed away in surging earth and water, leaving behind only a long trail of rusty red mud.

Torrential summer rains tore through Rio de Janeiro state's mountains, killing at least 140 people in 24 hours, Brazilian officials said Wednesday. (AP-Yonhap News)
Torrential summer rains tore through Rio de Janeiro state's mountains, killing at least 140 people in 24 hours, Brazilian officials said Wednesday. (AP-Yonhap News)

Heavy rains and mudslides kill hundreds of people across Brazil each year. Especially punished are the poor, whose rickety homes are often built on steep inclines with little in the way of foundations.

At least 130 people died in Teresopolis, the local Civil Defense agency said. The mountains saw 10 inches (26 centimeters) of rain fall in less than 24 hours.

Floodwaters continued to gush down the mountains Wednesday, though the rainstorm had ended. Survivors waded 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, who believes she may have lost 15 relatives to the flood, 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 neighbor's house on high ground with her husband and daughter, and watched the torrential rain carry away cars, tree branches and animals and tear 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.

In the neighboring mountain town of Nova Friburgo, at least 107 people died, according to an e-mailed statement from the Rio state Civil Defense department. Among the dead were four firefighters who were helping in the rescue effort. Three other firefighters were listed as missing after their fire truck was hit by a mudslide.

With the new disasters, more than 300 people have died since Christmas across the southeastern portion Brazil.

President Dilma Rousseff signed a measure Wednesday sending $461 million to towns in Rio and Sao Paulo states that were damaged during the recent rains. The money will go to repairing infrastructure and preventing future disasters.

The president planned to fly over the most severely damaged parts of Rio on Thursday.

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 defense department and firefighters dug for survivors.

In neighboring Petropolis, 20 people were confirmed dead by the Rio state Civil Defense department.

The death toll in the region was expected to rise as firefighters reach remote valleys and steep mountainsides where neighborhoods were destroyed, Teresopolis's mayor said. About 1,000 there were left homeless.

``This is the largest catastrophe in the history of this town,'' Sedlacek said in an interview with Globo TV.

Heavy rainfall also caused havoc earlier 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.

Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral called on the navy to lend helicopters to firefighters working as rescuers.

``We mourn the loss of lives in this tragedy caused by the rain,'' Cabral said in a statement.

The storm ended Wednesday morning, but the water-logged terrain remained unstable and a threat to communities perched on the sheer hillsides.

(AP)

<한글 기사>

브라질 폭우 피해 확산..280여명 사망

리우주 일부 도시 재난지역 선포

(상파울루) = 브라질 남동부 지역에서 폭우에 따른 피해가 갈수록 커지고 있다.

12일(현지시간) 브라질 재해당국에 따르면 폭우로 말미암은 홍수와 산사태로 리우 데 자네이루주와 상파울루 주 등 남동부 지역에서 사상자가 잇따르고 있으며, 침수 피해를 본 도시도 늘고 있다.

리우 주에서만 이날까지 260여명의 사망자가 발생했으며, 상파울루 주에서도 20여명이 숨진 것으로 파악되고 있다.

리우 주의 사망자는 테레조폴리스, 노바 프리부르고, 페트로폴리스 등 3개 시에서 집중적으로 발생했으며, 이 도시들은 재난지역으로 선포됐다.

리우 주내 빈민촌에서 산사태가 잇따르고 주요 도로가 침수되면서 교통이 통제되고 있는 가운데 노바 프리부르고 지역에서는 구조작업에 나선 소방대원 가운데 3명이 사망하고 1명이 실종되기도 했다.

현재 피해 지역별로 구조작업과 함께 시신 인양이 이루어지고 있어 사망자 수는 더 늘어날 것으로 보인다.

지우마 호세프 대통령은 이날 세르지오 카브랄 리우 주지사와 제랄도 알키민 상파울루 주지사에게 전화를 걸어 피해복구를 위한 연방정부의 지원을 약속했으며, 특히 피해가 심한 도시에 7억8천만헤알(약 4억6천500만달러)을 긴급 지원하기로 했다.

취임 10여일만에 대규모 재해 사태를 맞은 호세프 대통령은 13일 오전 리우 주 피해지역을 찾아갈 예정이다.

상파울루 시에서는 연일 계속된 폭우로 도로 100여곳이 침수되는 바람에 전날부터 일부 도시 기능이 부분적으로 마비됐다.

또 상파울루 시 인근 위성도시에서는 산사태로 가옥이 붕괴되는 등 피해가 잇따랐으며, 상파울루 주정부는 이재민 구호와 산사태 방지에 주력하고 있다.

이밖에 미나스 제라이스 주와 에스피리토 산토 주 등 남동부 지역은 물론 중부 및 북동부 일부 지역에서도 폭우가 쏟아지고 있어 피해가 전국적으로 확산할 가능성이 높은 상황이다.

기상당국은 "폭우가 당분간 계속될 것으로 보여 홍수와 산사태에 따른 대규모 피해가 우려된다"고 말했다. 이와 함께 방역당국은 폭우 피해지역에서 뎅기열이 확산할 수 있다고 경고했다.

(연합뉴스)

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