RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — One year on from the worst natural disaster in Brazil’s history, torrential rain and floods are again punishing parts of Rio de Janeiro state, forcing thousands from their homes and stoking fears of a repeat tragedy.
Last January over 1,000 people are thought to have lost their lives when heavy rain triggered vicious mudslides and floods in the mountains outside of Rio de Janeiro. Officially the death toll was 905 but around 300 others were never accounted for.
Whole families were buried alive as they slept when hillside shantytowns were enveloped in mud and earth and boulders crashed down onto redbrick homes.
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In the city of Teresopolis, one of the worst hit regions, bodies of children and the elderly piled up in an improvised morgue in the garage of the local police station.
With the catastrophe’s 1-year anniversary coming up next week, heavy rains are again inflicting severe damage across Rio state and in other parts of south-east Brazil.
Reports on Thursday suggested that over 22,000 people had been forced from their homes in Rio state since the start of this year. Six municipalities in Rio have declared a state of emergency.
Further north in the state of Minas Gerais some 71 towns and cities declared a state of emergency.
Anger at perceived government inaction is also growing, with those who lost their homes in last year’s floods complaining that they have not been re-housed fast enough. Rio’s governor, Sergio Cabral, this week admitted that building new homes for all those affected by last year’s disaster was a “gigantic” task.