The tourist city of Petropolis, located 60 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was hit on Wednesday, February 16 by torrential rains, which caused floods and landslides.
The toll of material damage and, above all, of the victims has continuously increased: the latest indication from the authorities speaks of 186 deaths, of which 33 children, and 69 people are still missing.
The governor of the Brazilian state of Rio, Claudio Castro, spoke about the «worst rains since 1932», evoking a situation so serious as to be comparable to a post-war scenario. Numerous rescue teams and vehicles were sent to the scene in an attempt to save the people who were trapped.
In less than six hours, 260 millimeters of water fell in some areas of Petropolis: a volume higher than that expected in the entire month of February, according to the meteorological agency MetSul.
Overall, more than 800 people have had to flee their homes, as they have been destroyed or located in areas at risk. For now, the displaced are housed in emergency facilities.
Landslides and landslides have in fact destroyed dozens of houses, in particular those built on the sides of the hilly areas. The rains also caused rivers to overflow, overturned cars, and felled trees. As a result, many streets in Petropolis are covered in a thick layer of mud and debris.
In particular, the area is considered particularly vulnerable: 25 percent of the territory is classified as “high risk” and not suitable for hosting inhabited centers. In addition, infrastructure suitable for draining rainwater is rare and often maintenance-free.
«A series of factors contributed to generating this tragedy, but the main one remains the inexistence of an urban plan to avoid the disorderly occupation of the mountainsides and recover the vegetation cover», according to Guerra.
Unfortunately, this is not a circumscribed event for Brazil. In fact, over the past three months, the South American nation has been hit by a series of extreme weather events that have resulted in numerous deaths. Also affected were Bahia, in the Northeast, and Minas Gerais, in the Southeast. Phenomena that are made more frequent and violent by climate change, according to specialists.