Feb 17, 2022 - World

Devastating floods and mudslides kill scores in Brazil

View after a mudslide in Petropolis, Brazil on February 17, 2022 during the second day of rescue operations.
View after a mudslide in Petrópolis, Brazil, on Feb. 17 during the second day of rescue operations. Photo: Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

At least 94 people died and dozens remain missing after heavy rain triggered flooding and mudslides in the Brazilian city of Petrópolis this week, Reuters reports.

The big picture: The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers continue to wade through the destruction left in Brazil's so-called "Imperial City." Hundreds have been displaced.

  • "We did not expect this tragedy. Our city is over," one resident, who said her niece and niece's daughter were still missing, told Reuters.
  • Henrique Pereira, a shopkeeper in Petrópolis, said the water came very fast and "with great force," per Reuters. "Our life was already tough with the pandemic and less movement, and this tragedy still comes."
  • The city has declared three days of mourning.

Driving the news: More than 10 inches of rain fell within three hours on Tuesday, AP reported, citing the state fire department.

  • That was as much rain as fell in the previous 30 days combined, per AP.
  • "No one could predict rain as hard as this," Rio de Janeiro’s Gov. Claudio Castro told reporters.
  • More rain is expected this week.
A member of the military police carries a dog which he rescued during the second day of operations at the scene of a mudslide in Petropolis, Brazil on February 17, 2022.
A member of the military police carries a dog he rescued in Petrópolis. Photo:

What they're saying: "We remain committed to helping others," President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on a trip to Russia, tweeted following the mudslides.

  • "God comfort the families of the victims," he added.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Andrew Freedman: Climate studies show that extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent and severe globally due to human-caused climate change. Brazil has seen both types of hydrological extremes in recent years, with severe drought in some areas along with flooding in others.

  • Warming air and sea temperatures are intensifying extremes at both ends of the spectrum, scientists warn.
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