Flash Flooding In Brazil Claims More Than 470 Lives And Shines Spotlight On Brazilian Housing Policy
January 14, 2011 By Roque Planas
Today in Latin America
Top Story — Flash floods and mudslides devastated the mountain towns north of the city of Rio de Janeiro beginning early Wednesday morning, bringing the death toll to at least 471 by Thursday, Bloomberg reported.
Like Haiti’s earthquake exactly one year prior, the high death toll in Brazil’s natural disaster highlighted the precarious living conditions of the country’s poor and the government’s loose enforcement of building codes.
“We saw regions where mountains fell apart,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said, after surveying the region by helicopter on Thursday. In Brazil, she added, “housing in high-risk areas is the rule, not the exception.”
Rousseff authorized $418 million to fund relief and rescue efforts. The Brazilian Health Ministry says it will send seven tons of medications to treat those affected by the disaster, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
“This was like a tsunami,” Vanda Cortasio, 46, told The New York Times. “People live in shacks on mountains, so many more will die it if continues to rain like this.”
Governor of Rio de Janeiro state Sérgio Cabral also faulted substandard housing policies. “It was an ominous combination of irregular housing, in many cases, and nature’s fury,” Cabral said.
Heavy rain and flooding also affected the neighboring states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- With Chile’s 33 trapped miners safe and sound, President Sebastián Piñera now struggles to retain his popularity. Latin America News Dispatch contributor Patrick Burns reports.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- An unknown gunman in Mexico allegedly fired on workers across the border in West Texas.
- A Mexican state police officer was killed while on patrol in Monterrey, the ninth officer killed in just two weeks in the northern city.
- According to a report by the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights roughly 630 illegal immigrants in Illinois turned over to federal authorities under a program targeting hardened criminals had no prior criminal convictions.
- The United States is cautiously optimistic that a U.S. aid contractor held by Cuba on suspicion of spying will be tried and then freed.
- Haitian President René Préval has reservations about a report from a regional organization that challenges the official results of Haiti’s chaotic November elections.
- Puerto Rico aims to protect newly discovered coral reefs off the southwestern coast of the island.
- Authorities in the Dominican Republic resumed mass deportations of Haitian migrants Thursday after a brief lull.
- The death toll from the bombing of a passenger bus in Guatemala last week has risen to nine after a man died of his injuries at a hospital.
- The Honduran congress approved a measure that might allow referendums on the once-taboo subjects like re-election and term limits.
- The charred bodies of three women were found Wednesday alongside a deserted stretch of road on the outskirts of the Guatemalan capital, authorities said.
- The organization representing Guatemala’s textile and clothing manufacturers said firms plan to lay off 6,000 workers this month.
- Venezuela’s tax authorities shut down more than 2,000 businesses in the oil-rich state of Zulia in 2010, for what they called bookkeeping “irregularities.”
- The Venezuelan economy will expand at least 2 percent this year thanks to investments of more than $15 billion in public works projects, the president of the country’s National Statistics Institute said Thursday.
- Police in Colombia say they’ve captured the chief go-between linking the country’s cocaine suppliers and Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.
- Former President Alejandro Toledo, a front-runner in Peru’s presidential race, said on Thursday that companies in the country’s vast mining sector must “give back” some of their rising profits to poor rural towns.
- A man died at the Dakar Rally in Argentina died on Thursday after the truck he was driving in struck a car in the race.
- Chile’s peso ended slightly stronger versus the dollar Thursday, but participants remain unsure if Chile’s central bank will increase its benchmark overnight rate.
- Paraguay’s national soccer team will take on Mexico in Oakland, CA in March.
Image: oudodou @ Flickr.