Torrential Rains Claim 66 Lives in Brazil
RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - In the slums of Brazilian towns across the state of Rio de Janeiro, 66 people are dead and nearly two thousand have been driven from their homes by torrential rains, floods, and mudslides persisting over the past two weeks.
The state in southeastern Brazil was placed on the highest alert after the worst flooding recorded in 30 years.
The city of Petropolis has been hardest hit. The city of Rio de Janeiro, Duque de Caxias and Paracambi, Niteroi, Japari and other towns have been also affected.
A state of emergency has been declared in 12 cities. Rescue and relief efforts are being undertaken by the municipalities as well as at the state level.
Visiting the disaster areas December 28, President Fernando Enrique Cardoso lamented the deaths and promised federal funding for relief. "At this moment," he said, "we cannot fight about this. We must show solidarity with the people."
Calling the situation in Petropolis a "calamity," Cardoso said the government would do "all we can to help under the constitution."
The Brazilian Red Cross’s three municipal branches in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in particular the Nova Iguaçu branch - recently appointed by the National Board to become the Rio de Janeiro State branch - have been helping the Civil Defense authorities through their volunteers to respond to the disaster.
The Brazilian Red Cross headquarters is providing coordination and some material assistance despite what the aid agency calls "the severe limitation of resources caused by institutional constraints experienced in the last nine years."
When contacted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, the Brazilian Red Cross leadership advised that international help is not needed now as the Civil Defense and other municipal, Rio state and federal authorities have the situation under control and are coping with the disaster.
In neighboring Minas Gerais state, 16 have died as a result of the storms an estimated 2,800 are now homeless.
President Cardoso said the torrential rains are having one positive result. They could help solve Brazil's current energy crunch by providing more water for the country's drought-stricken hydroelectric plants. Cardoso said the energy problem would be resolved if it keeps raining.
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