Rio tries to restore order amid more rain, 96 dead

  • World
  • Wednesday, 07 Apr 2010

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rains kept pummeling Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday as officials in Brazil's second largest city scrambled to restore transit after 96 people were killed by landslides and floods.

Rio's mayor said traffic had improved after flooded highways left commuters and residents stranded on Tuesday across the city, but called on people to postpone meetings and avoid traveling if possible.

"From the point of view of mobility, the situation is better than yesterday," Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters at an early morning press conference. "The city is starting to return to normal, but the rains are still intense."

He called on those living in hillside slums at risk for mudslides -- which were responsible for most of Tuesday's deaths -- to leave their homes as the rains continued.

"Their lives are at risk," Paes added.

A spokesman for Rio's fire department said rescue workers are still searching for 49 people declared missing in the wake of the rains, the heaviest to hit the city in at least three decades.

Brazil's most popular football team Flamengo postponed a match with a rival team from Chile because of the rains. Schools in Rio suspended classes for a second day.

The mayor on Tuesday said 1,200 people had been made homeless and that 10,000 houses remained at risk, mostly in the slums where about a fifth of Rio's people live, often in precarious shacks that are highly vulnerable to heavy rains.

Television images on Tuesday showed central parts of Rio flooded and abandoned cars under water. Near Copacabana beach, residents waded through ankle-deep water on their way to work.

The latest flooding and transportation chaos has renewed attention on Rio's poor infrastructure as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

In January, at least 76 people died in flooding and mudslides in Brazil's most populous states of Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Then, dozens of people were killed in a landslide at a beach resort between Rio and the port city of Santos.

(Writing by Brian Ellsworth, editing by Vicki Allen)

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