(photo credit: Associated Press)
TERESOPOLIS, Brazil — Walls of earth and water swept away homes in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro, wiping out families and leaving survivors scrambling Thursday to reach still-trapped neighbors.
RELATED:Floods hit empty Brisbane; 20,000 homes in dangerBrazil government says 100,000 displaced by floods
At least 350 people died in three towns after the slides hit at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, and 50 or more were still missing, according to officials and reliable local news reports.
"We were like zombies, covered in mud, in the dark, digging and digging" after the slides hit at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, said Geisa Carvalho, 19.
A tremendous rumble awoke Geisa and her mother Vania Ramos as tons of
earth slid down a sheer granite rock face onto their neighborhood. The
power was out, but by lightning flashes they could see a torrent of mud
and water rushing just a few feet (meters) from their home — and the
remnants of their neighbors' houses that were swept far down a hill.
"I don't even have the words to describe what I've seen," said Ramos,
during a 5-mile (8-kilometer) hike to the main part of her town in
search of food and water. "A lot of our friends are dead or missing.
There are people we may never find."
Carvalho and Ramos said they ran out of their home moments after the
mudslide and joined neighbors in digging for survivors with bare hands
and sticks. They quickly located a family of four who had died under the
rubble of their home — and said another neighbor's 2-month-old baby was
washed away in his crib and has yet to be found.
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
Nearly all the homes in their Caleme neighborhood were swept to the
bottom of a hill, seemingly turned inside out. Tangles of plumbing were
wrapped in trees, children's' clothing littered the earth, massive trees
were tossed about like toothpicks. A river of water and mud flowed
through the streets as a light rain continued to fall Thursday.
Only a few rescuers had managed to hike to Caleme by Thursday and they
only had shovels and machetes — not the heavier equipment that may be
needed to hunt for survivors. Residents said they had no food, water or
medication, and many made the long walk for help to the center of
Teresopolis, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Rio.
Such disasters hit Brazil annually in its rainy summer season and unduly
punish the poor, who often live in rickety shacks perched perilously on
steep hillsides with little or no foundations.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>