Heavy rains and flash floods overnight left at least 32 people dead in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro early Tuesday, paralyzing transportation and causing the city’s mayor to cancel all classes and urge people not to leave their homes.
Some 9 inches of rain drenched downtown Rio in a relentless storm that shut down airports, metro stations and major highways and bridges.
Although the rainfall had eased by early Tuesday, city and state officials warned that hillsides would become vulnerable to mudslides if it continued much longer.
Television coverage showed people abandoning cars along flooded highways and seeking to escape up stairs to overpasses or along railroad tracks. In some areas water was cascading down hillsides. Buses were stopped on underpasses, with water reaching almost above their tires.
Television images showed people waving from rooftops in some of Rio’s slums, where roads had filled with mud, burying cars and stranding residents.
The flooded area “is very big,” the city’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, said in an interview on Globo television. “We are asking people to seek safer ground, and if possible, for people to stay home.”
Rio’s governor, Sergio Cabral, also recommended that people stay in their homes so that emergency workers could concentrate on reaching those in need. He also said that many residents living in hillside slums faced the danger that their homes could collapse from the drenched and unstable ground.