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Torrential rain kills 55 in Brazil tourist town

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Aerial images of a deadly landslide after heavy floods in the Brazilian city of Petropolis in the hills above Rio de Janeiro that has killed at least 38 people.

At least 55 people were killed in devastating flash floods and landslides that hit the picturesque Brazilian city of Petropolis, turning streets into torrential rivers and sweeping away houses, officials said Wednesday.

Rescue workers raced to find survivors buried in the mud and wreckage after heavy storms Tuesday dumped a month’s worth of rain in three hours on the scenic tourist town in the hills north of Rio de Janeiro.

At least 21 people have been so far been rescued alive in the effort, according to the state government.

Wendel Pio Lourenco, a 24-year-old resident, was walking through the street with a television in his arms, heading to a local church in search of shelter.

“I found a girl who was buried alive,” he said.

Governor Claudio Castro said much the same after visiting the scene.

Videos posted on social media from Tuesday’s rains showed streets in Petropolis, the 19th-century summer capital of the Brazilian empire, fill with gushing floods that swept away cars, trees and nearly everything else in their paths.

Officials said more than 180 firefighters and other rescue workers were responding to the emergency, aided by 400 soldiers sent in as reinforcements.

The city council declared three days of mourning for victims.

Petropolis is a popular destination for tourists fleeing the summer heat of Rio, known for its leafy streets, stately homes, imperial palace — today a museum — and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.

The heaviest downpour had passed, but more moderate rain was expected to continue on and off for several days, authorities said.

“Thank you for your words of solidarity with the people of Petropolis,” he told President Vladimir Putin after meeting the Russian leader.

Brazil has been swept by heavy rains in the past several months that have caused a series of deadly floods and landslides.

Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, global warming increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.

There have also been heavy rains in the northeastern state of Bahia, where 24 people died in December.

In January 2011, more than 900 people died in the region due to heavy rains that caused flooding and landslides in a large area, including Petropolis and neighboring cities Nova Friburgo and Teresopolis.



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