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Rio de Janeiro under red alert after heavy rain triggers deadly floods and landslides, Brazil

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Heavy rains affecting Brazil since Saturday, February 29, 2020, triggered mudslides and floods across the state of Rio de Janeiro, resulting in widespread damage and at least four fatalities. Some areas received more than 180 mm (7 inches) of rain into early Monday, March 2.

Floods and landslides caused major damage in the Metropolitan region of Rio, particularly in western areas, as well as in the Baixada Fluminense region where two people sustained injuries when a house collapsed in Mage. In addition, a bridge collapsed in Santa Maria municipality, isolating residents and affecting rescue operations.

The worst affected region is the West Zone, where rainfall exceeded the March average in just 2 days. Some areas registered more than 180 mm (7 inches) of rain from late February 29 to March 2. A weather station in Mendanha recorded 61.4 mm (2.5 inches) of rain in one hour on Saturday, with 17.6 mm (0.7 inches) falling in 15 minutes.

The Rio Metropolitan Civil Defense said they responded to a total of 161 emergency calls, most of them for crumbled buildings.

The agency also activated around 30 sirens in 16 communities until Sunday night, March 1. Floodwaters submerged dozens of roads, washing away cars, causing damage to residential properties and disrupting rail lines on two extensions.

Moreover, the fire department confirmed at least three deaths due to weather-related incidents. Two of the fatalities were in West Zone, while another in was Mesquita, Baixada.

According to the Civil Defense, the fourth victim reportedly drowned in the Acari neighborhood in the North Zone and was eventually taken to the Ronaldo Gazzolla hospital. However, the municipality's health secretariat is yet to disclose the cause of death.

Rio de Janeiro has been put under red alert as further moderate to heavy rain is forecast for the area. Officials warned residents, particularly those in high-risk areas, to pay attention to the sound alerts.

"We are on high alert. Our bodies are prepared to resolve the situations and our teams are on the streets working. We will come out stronger from times like these," said mayor Marcelo Crivella.

"Avoid areas of risk, do not throw garbage on the streets so as not to clog the drains and meet the orientation teams. When the sirens sound, go to the refuge point."

Severe weather has been affecting Brazil since the start of the year. On January 27, at least 57 fatalities were reported after days of intense rain resulted in catastrophic floods and landslides. 2 000 people in Rio de Janeiro were displaced, particularly in the city of Itaperuna.

In addition to damage and devastation, the National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services, and Tourism reported that the extreme weather caused retail losses of around 45 million dollars.

Featured image credit: A15 News/YouTube

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