A landslide has swept away dozens of houses near Rio de Janeiro, worsening a disaster caused by heavy rains that has killed at least 138 people around Brazil’s second-biggest city.
The heaviest rains in more than four decades that began on Monday triggered at least 180 mudslides that crushed shacks in hillside slums, causing most of the deaths, leaving 53 people missing and more than 3,200 homeless.
Hundreds of residents and rescuers scrambled to find buried victims after a hill gave way in Niteroi, which lies on the other side of a bay from Rio.
“We are very sad… It seems there were more than 40 houses,” said Jose Mocarzel, Niteroi’s public services secretary.
The Globo network reported that two bodies had already been pulled from the debris.
After flooding caused transportation chaos on Tuesday, the city famed for its beaches and Carnival slowly returned to normal on Wednesday, but heavy rain began falling again in the evening and forecasters warned of more to come.
Firemen covered in mud struggled for hours to rescue an eight-year-old boy who had called for help from the rubble of a collapsed house in one hillside slum, only to find that the child had died by the time they reached him.
“I promised his father I would get the boy out alive but I couldn’t,” tearful fireman Luis Carlos dos Santos said.
The mudslide in Rio’s historic Santa Teresa area killed at least 18 people, most of whom had been sleeping on Monday night when the hillside collapsed.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes urged people living in high-risk areas to stay away from their homes as the city braced for another night of rain.
Authorities say at least 10,000 houses are still at risk of collapse and the national government has sent security forces to help with rescue operations.