RIO DE JANEIRO – The death toll due to the rains that last week deluged the mountainous region of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro rose to 741, authorities said, adding that at least 207 other people remain missing. On the eighth day of rescue and recovery operations, emergency crews on Wednesday morning found another 31 bodies and the prediction is that the number will continue climbing as authorities acquire access to regions that had been isolated. Rio Lt. Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao said that, in addition to the areas cut off by the tons of mud, stones and earth that slid off mountainsides, in other zones where access is already possible cleanup teams may find more bodies during their efforts. Pezao, quoted in an official statement, said that the cleanup teams will begin their work on Wednesday on the Plaza del Suspiro in the city of Nova Friburgo, where there are thought to be vehicles with people inside that were buried in the mudslides. “We’re getting to all the affected areas. Some by air, but the great majority by land. Today, we managed to get to Village (a suburb of Nova Friburgo), where, according to what residents say, there are more than 20 buried automobiles,” he said. The head of Rio state public works agency Emop, Icaro Moreno, acknowledged to reporters that it is possible that some bodies may not be found because there are still many areas where access is difficult and other spots that are covered by tons of earth. With 355 residents confirmed dead, Nova Friburgo is the city most heavily affected by what is considered to be one of the greatest natural disasters in Brazilian history. Rescue teams also have found 302 bodies in Teresopolis, 63 in Petropolis and 21 in Sumidouro.
At least 6,050 people lost their homes and another 7,780 have had to be temporarily evacuated from theirs and housed in public schools, according to federal authorities.
But municipal officials in the affected cities say that the number of people who lost or had to abandon their homes exceeds 20,000.
With regard to the number of people who are missing, and about whom there are still many doubts due to the chaos prevailing throughout the region, prosecutors decided to put together a list of 207 people on the basis of reports by family members. Nevertheless, the prosecutor’s office says that that number – for now – does not include the people reported missing in Petropolis. Lt. Gov. Pezao has said that it will be necessary to build 60 bridges to fully reestablish communications in the cities affected by the tragedy. In addition to about 1,500 firefighters, police and civil defense personnel, about 1,000 members of the Brazilian armed forces are participating in the rescue efforts.
BUENOS AIRES – The powerful storm that over the weekend lashed a vast region of central and eastern Argentina resulted in the deaths of three men and forced the cancellation of flights at one of the capital’s two airports, police said Monday. One man died when a tree fell on the truck he was driving in Rosario, a city 350 kilometers (217 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires. Police spokesmen said that another man was electrocuted when a high-tension wire came down in the town of Berisso, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Buenos Aires, where the storm caused an abrupt drop in temperature. In the nearby town of Florencio Varela, a 47-year-old man was electrocuted and his son was seriously injured when they stepped on live power lines downed during the story, the sources said. “Both jumped over a ditch to cross the street and stepped on the cables, which were electrified,” the spokesmen said. Wind gusts up to 80 kph (50 mph) tore off the foliage from the trees along the capital avenue that runs along the River Plate estuary, near the Jorge Newberry airport, where flight schedules and other activities began to get back to normal on Monday after the storm forced authorities to cancel 22 flights. The rains benefited farmers in Buenos Aires province, where a drought has threatened the soybean crop.
Fonte: Latin America Herald Tribune