Landslides in Rio mountains kill 24

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 19, 2013 2:52 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Landslides triggered by heavy rains killed at least 24 people in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro and prompted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to call for tougher action to eradicate precarious dwellings.

Firemen on Friday recovered the bodies of three children who were swept away by floods in the worst hit neighborhood called Quitandinha, a suburb of Petropolis, where dozens of homes were demolished by the landslides.

Most of the dead, including two civil defense rescuers, were buried under landslides caused by 17 inches (420 mm) of rain that fell on the mountainous region in just 24 hours, almost double the rainfall average for the month of March in the area.

Rousseff, who is in Rome for the investiture of Pope Francis, said Brazilian authorities will have to take "more drastic" measures to stop people building homes in dangerous places.

"We have offered people conditions to move away from areas that are at risk, but they always refuse to move," Rousseff told reporters in Italy. "So we will have to be tougher."

Floods and landslides killed about 1,000 people in the mountain region north of Rio de Janeiro in 2011 in the worst natural disaster on record in Brazil.

Works promised by local authorities to prevent new disasters have not materialized, though sirens installed in the region helped reduce the number of deaths this year, officials say.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)