JAMAPARA, Brazil — A mudslide caused by two days of downpours has killed at least 13 people in a small town in southeastern Brazil, and another 11 are listed as missing, the head of the Rio de Janeiro state civil defense department said Tuesday.
Sergio Simoes told CBN radio that five bodies were pulled from beneath tons of mud and debris on Tuesday, bringing the death toll in the Jamapara district of Sapucaia city to 13. Eight bodies were found on Monday.
Among the missing are five members of a family whose car was caught in the mudslide as they were trying to get away from the area.
Simoes said mud loosened by the rains swallowed at least nine houses built on the hillside.
"This is a very difficult area, where another mudslide could happened at any moment," he told CBN.
In front of the small church where a wake was being held for a family of three, Antonio Marcos Silva dos Reis said he lost several friends in the mudslide. He said it "sounded like a huge explosion when it happened."
"I was born and bred in this town and there have been floods every year," he said by telephone. "But I have never seen a tragedy as big as this one."
Floods elsewhere in the state have forced more than 30,000 people to flee their homes.
In neighboring Minas Gerais state, officials say more than 14,000 people have left their homes, and 15 have died in floodwaters or mudslides.
The southern hemisphere summer, which starts in late December, is Brazil's rainy season. It frequently brings devastation to communities perched on hillsides or near riverbanks. Nearly 1,000 people died last year around this time when torrential rain unleashed avalanches of mud in Rio's mountains.
The federal government has announced the creation of a task group of 35 geologists and 15 hydrologists to evaluate at-risk areas in Brazil's southeastern states of Rio, Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo.
Meanwhile, a severe drought in Brazil's southern state of Rio Grande do Sul led the governor, Beto Grill, to declare a state of emergency Monday. The federal Ministry of Agriculture announced it has allotted $9.7 million to build dams and wells among other public works designed to improve the situation.