The death toll from the flash floods and landslides that hit the picturesque city of Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro state, has risen to 182 with 89 people still unaccounted for, authorities said on Tuesday.
The tragedy took place on February 15 and has already become the deadliest in the history of the Brazilian municipality. The death toll now exceeds another catastrophe caused by intense rainfall in February 1988, which led to 171 deaths, according to the records of the mayor’s office.
In just a few hours, a volume of water equivalent to a month of rain fell onto the city of 300,000 habitants that served as the 19th-century summer capital of the Brazilian empire. The overwhelming rain turned the streets into rivers that swept away trees, cars and buses, and caused landslides in the neighbourhoods perched on the slopes of the mountains that surround the city. Officials are still working through a massive clean-up operation to clear the mud, rubble and stranded vehicles.
Rescue workers and residents continue searching for their missing relatives digging through mountains of mud and rubble in Petrópolis, which President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday looked like it had been through a "war."
"We need our streets clear so we can speed up the job of getting our city back on its feet," Mayor Rubens Bomtempo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, more than 850 people who have lost their homes or had to evacuate are being housed in emergency shelters.
Experts say the violent rains are being made worse by climate change.