Death toll from torrential Brazil storms rises to 37

Death toll from torrential Brazil storms rises to 37

A woman cleans at a restaurant after the overflowing of the Das Velhas River in Sabara, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. (AFP Photo)

 The death toll from days of intense storms and flooding in southeastern Brazil has risen to 37, authorities said Sunday.

In addition to the dead, the number of injured has risen to 12 and of those missing to 25, local Civil Defense officials said.

The dead have yet to be identified. Many were buried by landslides or in the debris of collapsed houses, which in many poorer parts of Brazil are shoddily built.

Officials said some 17,000 people have been left homeless in 58 towns and cities across Minas Gerais state, including in the capital Belo Horizonte, as well as in nearby areas.

Images taken from the ground and the air, some posted on social media, showed the vast sweep of the disaster, with damaged houses, fallen trees and downed utility poles, overflowing rivers, collapsed bridges and flooded neighborhoods.

The torrential rains -- the worst since records were first kept 110 years ago -- eased off on Sunday, but authorities said the risk of new landslides would continue through Friday in towns in the Belo Horizonte area.

From India, where he is on an official trip, President Jair Bolsonaro said the government was doing "everything possible," while adding that in such a large area "it is difficult to serve everyone."

Regional Development Minister Gustavo Canuto and Governor Romeu Zema of Minas Gerais state flew over the affected area, and promised afterward in a news conference to prioritize humanitarian aid for the homeless. They announced immediate aid of 90 million reais (about $22 million).

Zema warned that without consistent, long-term public policies to reduce areas at risk, "we will see things like this many times over."

But in Vila Bernadete, a neighborhood on the edge of Belo Horizonte where six people died in a landslide that toppled seven hillside homes, a neighbor, Audemar Carneiro, 51, said the area had never seemed at risk.

"Nothing like this has ever happened here," he told AFP. "It was a fairly safe place... It was an unannounced tragedy."

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox