Rio floods death toll reaches 131, initial cost put at $200 million

April 7th, 2010

Photo: Agencia Brasil

Photo: Agencia Brasil

The official death toll from the floods that overwhelmed the city of Rio de Janeiro and its surrounding state this week has reached 131 people.

Record rainfall that began on Monday afternoon led to landslides in the city and greater Rio de Janeiro causing chaos as makeshift housing was washed away from hillsides, underground train stations were flooded and electricity supplies cut off.

Thousands have been left homeless outside and inside the city, where more unusually, affluent areas such as Tijuca were also affected.

In Niterói, one driver whose car was carrying a family of passengers reportedly died in an area noted for its mansion houses when land gave way.

More than a 140 flights to and from Rio’s Santos Dumont airport were cancelled, while many vehicle owners simply abandoned them in the street.

Mopping up operations are underway after flooding left schools, shops and other businesses at a standstill.

Coming during the traditionally slow Easter holiday period when the public heads for the beach, store owners in Rio de Janeiro estimate the cost of lost business at R$ 190 million ($107 million).

Rio de Janeiro state governor Sérgio Cabral and city Mayor Eduardo Paes have presented Brazil’s federal government with a 38-point emergency plan of action to address flood damage. The mayor is asking for around R$370 million ($207 million) for emergency running repairs.

Meantime, authorities say the flooding should not be used as an excuse to increase the price of fruit and vegetables because affected areas are not used for farming.

Though six years away, some say the floods put a question mark over Rio’s capacity to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

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