by Staff Writers
Tres Vendas, Brazil (AFP) Jan 6, 2012
From his grocery store, a stunned Paulo Borges scans the flooded streets of this small town in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state where a dike burst, driving thousands from their homes.
Home to 4,000 people, Tres Vendas, located nearly 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Rio de Janeiro is now completely submerged after torrential rains swelled the Muriae River, causing an elevated highway serving as a dike to rupture Thursday.
Rescue officials then evacuated several thousand residents and brought them to the fire department barracks and municipal shelters.
"It all began at 7:00 am (0900 GMT) and as always I did not have enough time to save everything. Every year it is the same thing," Borges, wearing a red life jacket, tells AFP.
Under a sunny blue sky, an eerie silence hangs over the area, only interrupted by the roar of two motor boats that ferry trapped residents and bring food and water to those who decided to stay in their marooned homes.
Civil defense officials say the town could remain under water for one month.
Patrick Ramos, 17, does not wait for a boat and instead walks to the road with water up to his neck.
"At one point, I could not walk, I had to swim," he says.
A small dog also tries to swim across but after several failed attempts is rescued just in time by a man who drops him on the stairs of the store.
Shell-shocked residents watch their school, church and local bar, submerged by the brown floodwaters.
"The water destroys everything," laments 26-year-old Junior Mendes.
The flooding spared Borges' store, so Ducineri Martines and Reinaldo Quintilla took refuge there, bringing with them the belongings they were able to salvage with the help of the army.
"I got up early and the news traveled fast. I heard a scream and I started removing things: the refrigerator, the stove, the sofa and the television set," the 35-year-old housewife says as he serves lunch to her 41-year-old husband.
Local officials scramble to provide shelter to the evacuees.
"We have evacuated 500 families and we are scrambling to remove another 500, who are trapped on the terraces and roofs of their homes because the water level will drop in 30 days at the earliest," says Colonel Moacir Pires, who coordinates Civil Defense operations.
Reselene Martines, who fled the town with her grandfather and three sons to seek refuge in a nearby town, says she has not received any assistance from the government.
"We have not received any help, we are having a hard time," she laments.
State officials have meanwhile ordered a maximum alert.
Exactly a year ago, flooding and landslides left more than 1,000 people dead or missing in the mountainous area of the state.
The rainy season, which began in late October but has worsened in the past few weeks, has left at least eight people dead and forced the evacuation of more than 15,000 in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais states.
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Dike bursts in flood-hit Brazil, 4,000 evacuated
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Jan 5, 2012
A dike burst in Brazil's flood-hit northern Rio de Janeiro state Thursday, forcing the evacuation of nearly 4,000 residents, authorities said. Rising water levels on the Muriae river due to the torrential rains of the past few days caused the rupture of a bridge that serves as a dike protecting the town of Campos do Goytacazes, rescue officials said. "We have evacuated about 1,000 famili ... read more
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