Rio’s rains now have killed at least 180 people and over 14,000 were left homeless in a storm that devastated Brazil’s state of Rio de Janeiro since Monday evening, authorities informed.
Most of the deaths were caused by mudslides as many favelas (shantytowns), where the poorer population lives, are located on hills.
According to Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes at a news conference, the situation “is better than it was yesterday.”
“During the night, fortunately, there were no new landslides, but the risk still exists,” he said. The toll could rise further as dozens were reportedly still missing following the rains.
In less than 24 hours, the rainfall in the region reached 288 millimeters, surpassing the previous record of 245 millimeters registered in 1966, said Eduardo Paes. This is equivalent to at least two months average rainfall.
Rivers and streams overflowed, flooding over 60 areas in different parts of the city that will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
Rio’s traffic was paralyzed as the storm began when commuters were getting off work.
The subway system registered a record number of passengers, and a train line was closed for over 20 hours as the stretches of the line were flooded. Ferry boat lines were operating with irregular intervals.
Flooding turned Rio’s main highways and avenues into large rivers. The airports and main railway stations were closed temporarily. The authorities advised citizens to stay at home and not to go out. Schools, courts and public offices were closed.
Earlier in the evening, State Governor Sergio Cabral declared three days of official mourning for the victims of the storm.
Rio’s city hall started to collect food and clothing donations for people affected by the floods. The federal government also decided to open military police battalions to shelter the homeless.
The weather forecast says it will continue to be rainy until the end of the week.