The Mayor's Office decreed a state of public disaster and issued an alert to the population about the possibility of more downpours in the next 48 hours.
The death toll rose to 120, due to landslides and floods caused by heavy rains on Tuesday in the Brazilian city of Petropolis in Rio de Janeiro state.
According to the Rio de Janeiro civil defense authorities, at least 400 firefighters are working with Army personnel to search for survivors, after a large part of Petropolis was destroyed by landslides and floods.
Heavy rains on Tuesday in the mountainous city triggered over 50 landslides. More than 500 families were evacuated, while the power grid and drinking water supply were also affected. The Petropolis Mayor's Office decreed a state of public disaster.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation indicated that the risks of new landslides were "very high," since the intense rains raised the level of moisture in the soil, which in turn generates the possibility of new large-scale precipitation.
CENAS DE DESESPERO! Após um ônibus tombar durante esse temporal que assolou Petrópolis, passageiros que ocupavam o coletivo foram simplesmente arrastados pela correnteza. Até o momento não se sabe se elas conseguiram sobreviver. pic.twitter.com/6MeD60KlhV— Favela Caiu na Rede RJ (@FCNRRJ) February 17, 2022
The tweet reads, "Scenes of desperation! After a bus overturned during the storm that hit Petropolis, the passengers were simply swept away by the current. So far, it is not known whether they managed to survive."
The magnitude of the human losses has raised voices of indignation against local authorities. In an interview with Radio Brasil Atual, for example, lawyer Marilu Cabañas demanded compensation for the affected families and called for an exhaustive investigation of the actions actually carried out by Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro and Petropolis Mayor Rubens Bomtempo, both of whom have been denounced for negligence.
This happened after Folha de Sao Paulo published an article showing that the National Natural Disaster Alert Monitoring Center (CEMADEN) issued an alert on the magnitude of the storm the day before the tragedy.
Other Brazilian outlets have published information showing that these subnational governments allocated few resources to risk prevention in the poorest neighborhoods. This attitude of the authorities has been accompanied by a "criminalization" of the poor, whom conservative politicians blame for "encroaching" on hillside lands.