RIO DE JANEIRO – The death toll from a series of mudslides in the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro has climbed to 225, with recovery efforts becoming more difficult as teams reach deeper strata, officials said Sunday.
Two more bodies were recovered Sunday morning in the shantytown of Morro do Bumba in Niteroi, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, where it is feared that another 150 people could be buried.
The work of rescue teams, who have removed 34 bodies from the site, is becoming difficult because the top levels of the mass of earth have been removed and now it will be necessary to dig deeper, amid tons of mud, stones and trash that cascaded off the hillside due to the rains.
The shantytown located in Morro de Bumba, which had about 50 dwellings, a church, a day care center and several businesses, had been built about 30 years ago on top of an old dump, a location where the soil was weak and its capacity to absorb water reduced.
Most of the rescue and recovery work has been focusing since last Friday on the site, but efforts continued on Sunday on other hillsides in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Gonzalo, Petropolis, Nilopolis, Mage and Paracambi, which were the cities most affected by the rainstorm that began last Monday afternoon.
The evacuation of hundreds of families who were still in areas considered dangerous and where it was feared that there could be new landslides will begin on Monday, Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral said.
Many of those families are refusing to leave their homes, but officials said that, if necessary, they will be forced to do so, since there is a real danger that more landslides could occur if there is more rain, as meteorologists predict for this week.
The number of people affected by the rains in Rio de Janeiro state, according to government estimates, is some 50,000, who have been housed temporarily in municipal shelters and schools.