Lula visits disaster zone after Brazil floods kill 36

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 21 2023 01:04 AM

SAO PAOLO, Brazil -- President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flew in Monday to tour the resort region turned disaster zone where at least 36 people were killed and dozens are still missing after floods and landslides, just as Brazil celebrated carnival.

Lula was due to give a news conference in the city of Sao Sebastiao, a popular beach destination around 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Sao Paulo.

The Sao Paulo state government said the death toll stood at 36: a girl killed on the vacation getaway island of Ilhabela, and 35 people killed in Sao Sebastiao, on the mainland.

"Around 40 people have still not been located," Sao Paulo rescue department official Michelle Cesar told CNN Brasil.

The department said 14 injured people had been rescued.

Nearly 1,000 people were evacuated, while 747 lost their homes, authorities said.

Rescue workers were rushing to find any survivors buried under the mud and rubble before it was too late.

The disaster struck just as Brazil celebrated carnival weekend, which draws huge numbers of tourists to Sao Sebastiao.

Authorities said record rains had dumped 600 millimeters (nearly 24 inches) of water on Sao Sebastiao in 24 hours, more than double the usual amount for the entire month of February.

"What happened was a natural phenomenon we hadn't seen in many years," Sao Paulo civil defense department spokesman Roberto Farina told CNN Brasil.

"In my 46 years, I've never seen anything like it," said local chef Eudes Assis, who issued an appeal for donations on Instagram.

"People lost what little they had. It's an incredibly sad moment," he wrote.

Around 500 rescue workers, soldiers and police are working on the rescue effort, deploying helicopters, planes and heavy machinery, the state government said.

The national weather institute issued an alert for more heavy rain in the region Monday.

Brazil has been hit by a series of weather-related disasters in recent years that experts say are being made worse by climate change.

The latest tragedy came almost exactly a year after torrential rains and landslides in the southeastern city of Petropolis that killed more than 230 people.


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