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Heavy rains and landslides in Brazil leave dozens dead, several others missing 

The death toll is expected to increase as rescuers continue their search efforts in hopes of finding survivors

Landslide Brazil
Landslide Brazil | Shutterstock

February 20, 2023 8:17pm

Updated: February 20, 2023 8:17pm

Heavy rains and landslides have left at least 40 people dead in Brazil’s southern state of Sao Paulo this weekend, state authorities said on Monday. 

The death toll is expected to increase as rescuers continue their search efforts in hopes of finding survivors. At least 40 other individuals are still missing, Governor of Sao Paulo Tarcisio de Freitas told television network Globo. As a result of the floods and landslides, at least 800 people were left homeless and 1,730 displaced, the Sao Paulo government said in a statement. 

The city of Sao Sebastiao, known for its beaches flanked by mountains, was one of the worst hit by floods and landslides, receiving more than 23.6 inches of rain in 24 hours. At least 35 residents died and more than 50 houses collapsed. 

“It was very quick. Either you run or you die,” said a resident who barely managed to escape a landslide that destroyed her home. “It’s not possible to take anything, only your life, which is the most important thing.”

Additionally, the highway connecting Rio de Janeiro with Sao Sebastiao was blocked by flooding and landslides. According to Freitas, the damage to the roads might be so extensive that they may no longer exist. 

Our rescue teams are not managing to get to several locations. It is a chaotic situation,” Sao Sebastiao Mayor Felipe Augusto posted on social media late Sunday night.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the town of Sao Sebastiao on Monday to witness the damage firsthand. Lula urged people living in the hilly regions of the state to relocate and no longer build homes in the area due to the increased risk of landslides and floods. 

"Sometimes nature takes us by surprise, but sometimes we also tempt nature," Lula said in a speech after meeting with Governor Tarcisio and Mayor Augusto. 

"I think it's important that neither happens," he added. "I express my solidarity with the people of Sao Sebastiao and I hope this never happens again."