Brazil Flood-Hit Villages Need at Least $1.2 Billion

Rebuilding from floods and mudslides in Brazil that killed 647 people will cost at least 2 billion reais ($1.2 billion), according to estimates by the three hardest-hit areas in Rio de Janeiro state.

Petropolis, Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo, cities in the mountainous area about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Rio, will need to rebuild roads, bridges, homes and businesses after the heaviest rain in 44 years sent earth and rocks rolling down hillside communities, and flash floods swept away entire neighborhoods. Nova Friburgo, where at least 294 people have died, will need at least 1 billion reais, said David Massena, a spokesman for the city.

“We’ll need to rebuild all bridges, the main highway, at least 3,000 houses, and the entire downtown area, including our 19th century church,” said Massena. “That building was priceless, and very dear to our people.”

The floods in Rio are the world’s fourth-deadliest disaster involving floods and landslides over the past 12 months, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, or CRED, a Brussels-based research institute.

Rainfall over the weekend slowed rescue efforts, as army troops, police forces and thousands of volunteers searched for survivors and recovered bodies. Air force helicopters transported food and water to families stranded in rural areas without communications.

Rainy Forecast

Weather improved today, though heavy showers will probably affect the region at the end of the day over the next three days and temperatures in the area are expected to reach 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees Fahrenheit), with the humidity levels at around 78 percent.

“The sun is out and it will help dry the soil a little bit, but the population should remain on alert because of the risk of thunderstorms in the afternoons,” said Felipe Farias, a meteorologist at Brazil’s Center for Weather Forecasting and Climatic Studies, or CPTEC.

About 6,000 people are homeless, and another 8,000 had to leave their houses and go to shelters while authorities assess the risk of more mudslides. Rio state governor Sergio Cabral declared a state of emergency in seven municipalities.

Most Rain Since 1967

The region has already seen the largest rainfall since 1967, according to the government’s Inmet meteorology agency. Teresopolis, the largest city in the area, where at least 271 people died, received 259 millimeters (10.2 inches) of rain in the first 10 days of the year, while the average rainfall for the month of January is 290 millimeters, according to Inmet.

Teresopolis, home to 138,000 people, will need at least 600 million reais ($359 million) to rebuild infrastructure, homes and businesses, Mayor Jorge Mario Sedlacek said in a news conference Jan. 14.

President Dilma Rousseff today signed a decree allowing victims to withdraw as much as 5,400 reais from their government-run severance and disability fund, known as FGTS, to rebuild their homes or relocate. The federal government has made available 700 million reais in emergency funds to fund relief and rescue work.

-- Editors: Joshua Goodman, Bill Faries.

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