The death toll from catastrophic mudslides in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro has climbed to 58 people, authorities reported on Wednesday.
Floods swept through the city of Petropolis following heavy downpours on Tuesday. Teams of rescuers continue to comb the wreckage, looking for survivors.
Rosilene Virgilio, 49, recalled the pleas for help from a woman she couldn’t save during an interview with the AP.
“Yesterday there was a woman screaming ‘Help! Get me out of here!’ But we couldn’t do anything, the water was gushing out, the mud was gushing out,” she said. “Our city unfortunately is finished.”
More than 180 soldiers were working in the stricken region which saw 900 deaths from heavy rainfall in 2011.
The department said the area got 25.8 centimeters (just over 10 inches) of rain within three hours on Tuesday – almost as much as during the previous 30 days combined.
Footage posted on social media showed cars and houses being dragged away by landslides and water swirling through Petropolis and neighboring districts.
“The neighbours came down running and I gave them shelter,” bar owner Emerson Torre, 39, told The Associated Press.
But under torrents of water, the roofing collapsed. He managed to get his mother and three other people out of the bar in time, but one neighbour and the person’s daughter were unable to escape.
“It was like an avalanche, it fell all at once. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Torre said, as rescue helicopters hovered overhead. “Every neighbour has lost a loved one, has lost two, three, four members of the same family, kids.”
Governor Claudio Castro said on Twitter that he was mustering all heavy machinery belonging to several state secretariats to help dig out the buried area.
“May God comfort the family members of the victims,” he wrote.
Southeastern Brazil has been punished with heavy rains since the start of the year, with more than 40 deaths recorded between incidents in Minas Gerais state in early January and Sao Paulo state later the same month.
The south-eastern states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte have seen a rise in extreme rainfall events over the last 30 years which are linked to the climate crisis.
The mountainous areas are vulnerable to the rise in precipitation which can destabilize steep inclines and cause landslides.
Landslides also impacted Guatemala on Wednesday following a 6.2-magnitude earthquake.
Two people were killed, according to Reuters, after the tremor led buildings to partially collapse, power cuts and left roads impassable.