|June 22, 2010|
Brazil floods kill dozens and leave 1,000 people missing
|Torrential rain devastates towns and cities in Brazil's north-east, leaving as many as 97,000 people homeless.|
At least 1,000 people are unaccounted for after floods devastated a series of small towns and cities in Brazil's north-east.
Torrential rain has hammered down on the north-eastern states of Alagoas and Pernambuco, over 1,200 miles (2,000km) north-east of Rio de Janeiro, since last Thursday causing rivers to swell and at least one dam to burst.
The resulting floods tore through dozens of towns with aerial images showing several areas that had been reduced to giant piles of rubble. Reports in the local press suggest that as many as 97,000 people have been left homeless while 38 deaths have been confirmed.
"There are places where it looks like someone has dropped an atomic bomb," Teotonio Vilela Filho, the governor of Alagoas state, one of the two affected regions, told the O Globo newspaper.
"We are praying that they [the missing] are still alive. We are very worried because the bodies have already started washing up on the beaches."
"In certain areas it looks like what happened in Haiti," he added, claiming that 70% of the state's railway lines had been destroyed by the flooding.
One of the state's newspapers, Extra Alagoas, said in an editorial: "The scenes are devastating. It looks like a war zone."In Uniao dos Palmares, one of the worst-hit towns, 500 people were reported to be missing after floods swept through the city, located around 43 miles from the state capital, Maceio.
"When we heard [the flood was coming] we tried to save some things but within 10 or 20 minutes the water started invading. I ran out of my house with my wife and after that I just heard the noise of the houses falling," 26-year-old Diogenes Vitorino told the Gazeta de Alagoas newspaper, which compared the destruction to a tsunami.
Maciel Lopes de Goes, a resident of Quebrangulo, another of the affected areas in Alagoas, said he had lost virtually all his possessions. "I saved my wallet and my mother [saved] her mobile phone," he told the newspaper. "I think Quebrangulo will become a ghost town. Nearly everything has gone."
As rescue teams from Rio de Janeiro made their way to the affected areas yesterday, and air force planes brought medical supplies, there was concern that rain would return.
In the north-eastern tourist capital of Recife, the city's most famous beach, Boa Viagem, was coated with dark mud and debris that had been washed out to sea by overflowing rivers.
The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a native of the country's impoverished north-east, said a "war effort" would be needed for the region to recover.
"The rain was very heavy and there are many homeless," he told his weekly radio programme, Breakfast with the President.
"We must wait for the water to fall to make a proper assessment of the damage and see what we can do. For now we must worry about saving lives."
In April, over 200 people were killed in Rio de Janeiro after rainstorms triggered landslides in several of its hillside shantytowns. One slum was swept completely off the map burying at least 47 residents alive.