Rio De Janeiro (AFP) April 13, 2010
Landslides triggered by pounding rain in Rio de Janeiro last week killed at least 246 people, officials said Tuesday, adding that the city's famous Christ statue was cut off for the first time in its eight-decade history.
The rise in the death toll reflected the discovery of more bodies in the wreckage of shantytowns knocked off their precarious mountainside perches by the landslides.
Searches were continuing for around another 200 people still missing in Rio's satellite town of Niteroi.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer, the landmark monument that dominates Rio, was isolated by nearly 300 landslides on and around the Corcovado mountain on which it sits, the official in charge of the surrounding forest, Bernardo Issa, told the daily O Globo.
The road and trainline that each year carry two million tourists a year to see the statue were covered in layers of mud and rocks.
"The damage to the park is severe. It's closed indefinitely. We're recommending people not try to walk or cycle there either," Issa said.
Experts said the flooding and landslides that decimated some of Rio's 1,000 slums were a "predictable tragedy."
The shaky construction of the houses, their position on slide-prone hillsides, and the absence of official urban planning in the poverty struck neighborhoods were to blame, they said.
"Rain didn't kill people living in the slums. It was negligent and irresponsible officials," an anthropologist, Alba Zaluar, told the weekly newsmagazine Epoca.
A former municipal secretary for urban planning, Sergio Magalhaes, told AFP that not only should curbs be put on the haphazard building of homes in the slums, but public services such as electricity, transport, schools and trash collection should be extended to the zones to counter the prevailing anarchy.
Others, though, pointed out that forcible evacuations of at-risk areas were not politically expedient in the past.
Faced with the flood deaths and destruction, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes has rethought that unspoken policy and ordered the removal of residents from districts facing the peril of landslides. He said that by 2012, some 12,000 families would be relocated.
Monday, 300 homes in a northern slum were razed by bulldozers.
According to municipal officials, around 10,000 homes have been built in areas at risk from landslides.
Many of the slums -- called "favelas" in Brazil -- are lawless areas that pose a challenge to authorities trying to reverse the city's reputation for crime ahead of the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
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Brazil searches for dead, for answers as flood toll climbs
Niteroi, Brazil (AFP) April 10, 2010
Rescuers raced against time Saturday amid fading hopes of finding survivors of a huge mudslide, with over 400 people now feared dead in some of the worst flooding to swamp Brazil in decades. Rescuers painstakingly pulled bodies from the thick mound of dirt and debris in the Niteroi shantytown of Morro do Bumba late Friday and Saturday, bringing the death toll to 223. Another 200 people w ... read more
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