SAO PAULO, Brazil -- At least three people were killed and more than 2,000 displaced when heavy rainfall caused flooding this week in the coastal state of Rio de Janeiro, officials said Thursday.
The downpour began Wednesday and continued overnight, dumping more rain in 10 hours in parts of the state than was expected for the entire month of December.
Local media were full of photographs of streets turned into rivers, commuters seeking refuge on top of buses and reports of looting as residents of the Baixada Flumeninse region fled their homes.
Authorities said they had discovered at least three bodies so far, but the death count could rise.
“There’s nothing I can do. I’ll just have to buy everything all over again,” said Jorge Luiz Costa, 54, who lost most of the contents of his home and is spending his nights elsewhere, according to the local newspaper O Globo. “We’re going to suffer now from a lack of water here, too, since they’re taking the tank away for cleaning.” [Link in Portuguese]
A river of brown sludge surrounded Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium, set to host the 2014 soccer World Cup final in July.
Officials asked residents to stay home and announced the deployment of federal security backup for the local police.
Baixada Fluminense, the most seriously affected region, sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains of Rio de Janeiro. Prone to flooding, much of the area was settled by low-income families with little public oversight.
Authorities said 415 homes were destroyed and 2,289 people displaced this week in Baixada Fluminense. The flooding also forced 227 people from their homes in the city of Rio de Janeiro, to the south.
December and January are typically the rainy months in the state, and flooding has continued to bring parts of the region to its knees since 2011, when at least 900 people were killed. In January 2012, flooding killed at least 13 people in the city of Sapucaia, in the interior of Rio de Janeiro.
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