19 killed in Brazil floods, landslides

by IANS |

Brasilia, Feb 20 (IANS) At least 19 people were killed due to floods and landslides caused by heavy rain along the coast of Brazil's Sao Paulo state, authorities have confirmed.

Among the victims were a seven-year-old girl who died when a rock fell on top of her family's house and a woman who was killed by a falling tree, local television channel GloboNews reported.

Carnival celebrations were suspended in several coastal cities in Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous state currently bustling with tourists due to the celebrations this week, reports Xinhua news agency.

"We are summoning the Armed Forces to help rescuers reach places where there may be victims," said Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio de Freitas, who visited the disaster zone on Sunday.

The storm mainly affected the municipalities of Sao Sebastiao, Ubatuba, Bertioga, Guaruja, Ilhabela and Santos.

Sao Sebastiao's local government declared a state of calamity as landslides and road damage closed highways and prevented rescue from reaching affected parts of the city.

"There were many landslides that washed away houses, therefore there are many people under the rubble. The situation is chaotic because it is not possible for rescuers to access those places," Sao Sebastiao Mayor Felipe Augusto told the daily Folha de S.Paulo.

The federal government dispatched lifeguards from the national civil defence agency and Minister of Integration and Regional Development Waldez Goes is expected to visit the area on Monday, according to an official statement.

Goes said the Defence Ministry will help in the rescue operations.

More heavy rain is expected in the area, threatening to make conditions even worse for emergency teams.

Last year, torrential rain in Brazil's south-eastern city of Petropolis killed more than 230 people.

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