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Mudslides and floods kill at least 18 outside Rio

Rescue workers and residents search for victims in an area affected by landslides in Petropolis, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. Extremely heavy rains set off mudslides and floods in a mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, killing multiple people, authorities reported. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

At least 18 people have died after extremely heavy rains set off mudslides and floods in a mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, authorities said.

There was widespread concern that the death toll could surge as teams searched damaged areas in the Petropolis region, which saw hundreds of deaths from heavy rainfall in 2011.

Rio state’s firefighting department said in a statement that more than 180 soldiers were working in the stricken region.

The department said the area received 25.8 centimetres (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 mudslides and water swirling through the city of Petropolis and neighbouring districts.

Petropolis’s city hall said in a statement that the heavy rains left “a high number of incidents and victims” and that rescue and recovery efforts were continuing.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on a trip to Russia, said on Twitter that he instructed his ministers to deliver immediate support to the afflicted.

“May God comfort the family members of the victims,” he wrote.

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