Extremely heavy rains hit Brazil, leaving at least 46 people dead
Brazil’s southeastern coastal areas were hit with exceptionally heavy rainfall on February 18 and 19, 2023, causing floods and landslides that killed 40 people, injured 23 others, and displaced thousands more. The region experienced some of the country’s highest recorded rainfall totals for a 24-hour period, with Bertioga registering 694 mm (27.32 inches) and São Sebastião recording 649 mm (25.55 inches) during the same timeframe.
A 180-day state of emergency was declared for the cities of Ubatuba, São Sebastião, Ilhabela, Caraguatatuba, and Bertioga after exceptionally heavy rains hit the region over the weekend.
In 24 hours to 09:00 LT on February 19, Bertioga registered 694 mm (27.32 inches) of rain, São Sebastião 649 mm (25.55 inches) — twice its normal monthly rainfall, Guarujá 406 mm (15.98 inches), Ilhabela 346 mm (13.62 inches), Ubatuba 339 mm (13.35 inches), Santos 243 mm (9.57 inches), Caraguatatuba 240 mm (9.45 inches), Praia Grande 226 mm (8.90 inches) and São Vicente 211 mm (8.31 inches).
Television and social media footage from the town of São Sebastião on Sunday showed flooded neighborhoods, debris from hillside houses swept away by mud, flooded highways, and cars destroyed by fallen trees. Dozens of roads have been washed out or blocked, causing severe transport difficulties. The mayor of Sao Sebastiao, Felipe Augusto, said 50 houses had collapsed in the city due to the landslides.
“We have not yet gauged the scale of the damage. We are trying to rescue the victims,” Augusto said, calling the situation in the town “extremely critical.”
As of February 22, 40 deaths have been confirmed in the region, including 39 in São Sebastião, and more than 2 400 people have been displaced or made homeless. Drinking water infrastructure has been severely damaged in São Sebastião, Caraguatatuba, and the municipality of Ilhabela, with drinking water being delivered by tank trucks in areas of São Sebastião.
The southeastern coastal region of Brazil, particularly areas such as Ubatuba, São Sebastião, and Ilhabela, are popular tourist destinations known for their beautiful beaches, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant culture. The heavy rains and flooding are especially concerning for the local economy as the region relies heavily on tourism.
This is the second severe flood event in the state in the last two weeks. Flooding affected the Greater São Paulo Region on February 7, resulting in one person dying in flood waters in Osasco, and another being reported missing and later found dead in floods in Parque São Lucas.
From December 1 to February 13, heavy rains and landslides across Brazil left 25 people dead and 8 547 displaced.
11:30 UTC, February 22
The number of casualties rose to 46 on February 21. Almost 2 500 people are still displaced or homeless. 45 people died in Sao Sebastiao.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the town of Sao Sebastiao (population 91 000) will be rebuilt by constructing new houses in safer places.
Featured image credit: Governo do Estado de São Paulo
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