More than 800 people are known to have died in the floods and landslides that have been afflicting the south-east of Brazil, and 400 more are missing after torrential rain washed whole hillsides away. It is being described as the country’s worst ever natural disaster.
The worst hit town is Nova Friburgo, where more than 320 have been killed. According to one analysis of the figures, about a third of the victims are children and adolescents. Many communities can now be reached only by helicopter.
As with so many disasters, there are now fears that disease may follow in the wake of the initial catastrophe. A number of people are known to have contracted leptospirosis, an illness spread by water contaminated with rats’ urine.
The deadliest mudslide ever was probably the one that hit Venezuela’s coastal strip in December 1999, after 36 inches of rain fell in just a few days. An estimated 30,000 people died. (See also my blogs of April 17, Oct 10, Nov 12 and 19, 2009 and Feb 21 and Aug 12, 2010).