Brazil: Death toll surpasses 650 in flooding disaster

Monday, January 17, 2011

RIO DE JANEIRO - The number of dead in flooding and mudslides in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro has reached 652.

The disaster has affected the mountainous area of the state, and worst hit are the cities Nova Friburgo, with 302 dead, and Teresopolis with 272 dead. In the historic city of Petropolis, home to luxury vacation villas, there were 57 dead, with a further 19 killed in Sumidouro and two more in Sao Jose do Vale do Rio Preto.

The Red Cross complained Monday that municipal officials in Teresopolis were hindering its efforts to rescue survivors.

“It’s an embarrassing situation,” Red Cross doctor Martius de Oliveira was quoted as saying in the online edition of the daily O Globo.

City officials denied the allegations and said they are cooperating with Red Cross officials to palliate the effects of the rain that has devastated the area for six days.

Brazilian media complained that poor coordination and other aspects of a chaotic response are preventing aid from being distributed to those who need it.

According to the daily Folha de Sao Paulo, at least 170 tonnes of aid, including food, water, medicine and clothes, cannot be distributed for these reasons.

The daily O Estado de Sao Paulo said that similarly poor coordination is affecting the departures of helicopters intended to rescue entire families who have been isolated by the mudslides and flooding with little food and water and no electricity.

Beyond coordination problems, the destruction of infrastructure including bridges and mudslides that block roads, make the task of taking aid to the worst affected areas of Teresopolis, Nova Friburgo and Petropolis particularly tough.

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