Rio de Janeiro, March 19 (IANS/EFE) At least 13 people died in a powerful storm that deluged the hilly portion of the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, state Gov. Sergio Cabral said.
Among the victims are two Civil Defense personnel in the city of Petropolis who were buried by a landslide as they were trying to help people affected by the rains, the official said Monday.
Most of the other reported victims were in homes that were buried by some of the 21 other landslides registered in different parts of Petropolis, a city of 300,000 located about 70 km from the city of Rio de Janeiro and one of the region's main urban centers.
Authorities fear that the toll could rise because additional landslides have been continuing to occur in Petropolis as well as in nearby cities like Duque de Caxias and Xerem and in the towns of Mangaratiba, Niteroi and Angra dos Reis, but the most serious situation was in Petropolis.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, a low pressure area bringing rain and heavy winds Sunday night paralyzed the metropolis and left several neighbourhoods without electric power.
In addition, at least 12 rivers overflowed in Rio de Janeiro state and the rains caused landslides that covered several regional highways.
More rain fell in Petropolis in a 24-hour period than had been expected for the entire month of March, traditionally a fairly rainy month, the state government said.
According to Cabral, who traveled to Petropolis, at least 140 families with 325 children among them were taken to shelters because their homes are located in high-risk areas.
"We repeat our request that people who live in high-risk areas go to the shelters, at least until the state of maximum alert is lifted," Cabral said.