By Maureen Ikpeama
Brazilian officials on Monday, said that over 36 people have been killed as a result of heavy rain which caused flooding and landslides on the northern coast of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, expressing the fear that fatalities could rise.
Sao Paulo’s state government said in a statement that 35 died in the city of Sao Sebastiao and a 7-year-old girl was killed in neighboring Ubatuba. On Monday morning, more than 500 people were continuing search and rescue efforts.
Some of the hardest-hit cities that are under a state of emergency, including Sao Sebastiao, Ubatuba, Ilhabela and Bertioga, canceled their Carnival festivities as rescue teams continued a search for the injured and missing under the rubble.
“Our rescue teams are not managing to get to several locations; it is a chaotic situation,” said Felipe Augusto, the mayor of Sao Sebastiao. He added that there are dozens of people missing and that 50 houses collapsed in the city due to the landslides.
Augusto posted on social media several videos of widespread destruction in his city, including one of baby being rescued by locals lined up on a flooded street.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said on Twitter he will visit the region Monday.
Sao Paulo state government said in a statement that precipitation in the region has surpassed 600 millimeters (23.6 inches) in one day, one of the highest amounts ever in Brazil in such a short period.
Bertioga alone had 687 millimeters during that period, the state government said.
Gov. Tarcisio de Freitas said in a statement he requested support from the army, which sent two airplanes and rescue teams to the region.
TV footage showed houses flooded with only the roof visible. Residents are using small boats to carry items and people to higher positions. A road that connects Rio de Janeiro to the port city of Santos was blocked by landslides and floodwaters.
The northern coast of Sao Paulo state is a frequent Carnival destination for wealthy tourists who prefer to stay away from massive street parties in big cities.