Rescue teams pulled bodies out of the mud on Saturday after a devastating landslide caused by rain in the Brazilian city of Petropolis, where the death toll rose to 146, including 26 children.
Amid the dense fog, rescue workers searched for bodies and survivors in the rubble and mud for a fifth day.
An AFP photographer confirmed that two corpses had been removed from a bag in the disaster-stricken neighborhood of Aldo da Serra, while relatives wept on the street.
In the center of the disaster zone, rescue workers occasionally blew their whistles to calm down and hear signs of life.
But officials warn they have no hope of finding survivors of Tuesday’s downpour that turned the streets of this beautiful city in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro into raging rivers.
The rain triggered landslides in mountainous slums, wiping out everything in their path.
Authorities said 24 people were rescued alive, but this was mainly in the first hours of the tragedy.
Rio de Janeiro state police say 218 people are missing as of Friday night.
Meanwhile, 91 of the 146 bodies recovered so far have been identified.
Many of the missing may still be in unidentified bodies. But the numbers are confusing and it is difficult to know how high the death toll will be.
Police said 26 minors were among the dead.
President Jair Bolsanaro, who flew by helicopter to the disaster area on Friday, said Petropolis was “severely devastated, almost an image of war.”
Tuesday is the latest in a series of deadly storms that have hit Brazil over the past three months, and experts say it is getting worse due to climate change.
Heavy rains killed at least 198 people, mainly in Sவ்o Paulo (southeast) and Bahia (northeast), and Petropolis.
– “Like ants” –
Restoration was slow in the tourist city of Petropolis, the summer capital of the Brazilian Empire in the 19th century.
Employees were busy cleaning shops in the city center where some businesses were open, except for essentials such as supermarkets and pharmacies.
The owner of a bookstore had to throw a whole pile of buried books down the street. “We had inventory in the basement. It was filled up to the water ceiling,” said Sandra Correa NATO, 52, a laborer waiting to store thousands of her books.
“We are very sorry for all these books. We could not donate them. They are so damaged. It hurts me,” he told AFP.
City officials have set up a new donation collection center on a highway on the outskirts of the city in an effort to reduce traffic congestion caused by ambulances, heavy machinery and trucks carrying donated food, water and clothing.
“There is a very strong current of solidarity and we are very grateful for that,” said Carol Serguerra, the city’s assistant secretary of community.
Elsewhere in the city, relatives cried as rescue workers dug up the rubble of a collapsed house in search of the mother of a family of four. The bodies of the father and two children have already been recovered.
In Aldo da Serra, rescue teams dressed in fluorescent orange shared the slow progress of the excavation with a tired neighbor.
Search hunts are being carried out with hand tools and chainsaws in the most difficult areas as mountaineering mud and debris have been warned to be unstable.
Roberto Amaral, coordinator of the local fire department’s special rescue team, said bringing in bulldozers used at the base of the slope was very dangerous.
“It’s not possible to bring heavy machinery here, so basically we have to work like ants and go a little bit,” he told AFP.
Meanwhile, 90 people are buried in the city’s main cemetery, 44 of them on Saturday morning alone.
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