Torrential rains have triggered flash floods and landslides across Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state, killing at least eight people including six children and leaving 13 missing, authorities said on Saturday.
Two days of heavy rain have battered a broad swath of the southeastern state’s Atlantic coast, the latest in a series of deadly storms in Brazil that experts have said are being aggravated by climate change.
The latest floods and landslides come six weeks after flash floods and landslides killed 233 people in the scenic city of Petropolis, the Brazilian empire’s 19th-century summer capital, also in Rio state.
This time, the areas hit hardest included the tourist town of Paraty, a seaside colonial city known for its picturesque cobblestone streets and colourful houses.
Officials on Saturday there said a landslide in the Ponta Negra neighbourhood had killed a mother and five of her children, ages two, five, eight, 10 and 15.
A sixth child was rescued alive and taken to the hospital, they said.
In all, seven houses were swept away in landslides in the city, and another four people injured. Seventy-one families were forced from their homes, officials said.
Two more victims were killed in the cities of Mesquita and Angra dos Reis, where another 13 people remain missing, said Congressman Marcelo Freixo, who represents the state of 17.5 million people.
In Angra, the victim was a four-year-old girl buried in a landslide, while in Mesquita, 40km (25 miles) northwest of Rio de Janeiro city, a 38-year-old man was electrocuted trying to help another person escape the flooding, media reports said.
The storms turned streets into rivers in several cities on Friday night, sweeping up cars and triggering landslides – a frequent tragedy in the rainy season, especially in poor hillside communities.
Officials in Angra said the city had received 655 millimetres (26 inches) of rain in 48 hours, “levels never before registered in the municipality”.
The federal government said it had sent military aircraft to help the local rescue effort, and dispatched national disaster response secretary Alexandre Lucas to the state.
Experts have said rainy season downpours in Brazil are being augmented by La Nina – the cyclical cooling of the Pacific Ocean – and by the impact of climate change.
As a hotter atmosphere holds more water, global warming increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.
In January, torrential rain triggered floods and landslides that killed at least 28 people in southeastern Brazil, mostly in Sao Paulo state.
There were also heavy rains in the northeastern state of Bahia, where 24 people died in December.