RIO DE JANEIRO – The heavy rains that began Monday night in Rio de Janeiro and are continuing on Tuesday have left at least five people dead and three missing, as well as much damage and flooding in Brazil’s signature city.
Two women died, and a man is still missing after a landslide caused by the storm on Tuesday hit the shantytown of Babilonia, a neighborhood near Copacabana beach, a prime tourist attraction.
The other victims were three men who died at several locations around the city, one of them losing his life when he was swept away by floodwaters after falling off his motorcycle, according to eyewitnesses. His body was found in the Gavea neighborhood, one of the areas most affected by the flooding.
A 40-year-old man was electrocuted while cleaning the storm drain at his home, and a fifth body was found by rescue personnel in Botafogo, another heavily affected district of Rio.
Meanwhile, a grandmother and granddaughter who left a shopping center to head home on Monday night were reported missing.
The rain has been falling for 14 hours and the floodwaters have swept away countless vehicles and inundated the city’s streets and tunnels.
On Feb. 6-7, six people died in Rio during heavy rains which deposited 70 percent more water during those two days than in the entire month of April. However, on Tuesday it rained more in just four hours than on both those days in February combined.
The area near the Rio Botanical Garden registered the highest rainfall, according to official figures.
Various media outlets on Tuesday night showed images of a group of children trapped by the rain on a school bus who were subsequently rescued by firefighters.
Local roads have been paralyzed by the flooding, and hundreds of people have been forced to wait for the rains to slacken to be able to return to their homes.
Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella closed local schools and universities and told people to avoid going into the southern portions of the city because of transportation difficulties and street conditions.
Southern Rio, where the heavily frequented Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are located, has been one of the most severely affected areas, along with the neighborhoods located in the western portions of the city.
More than 1,700 emergency situations have been reported during this weather-related crisis.