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Brazil rescuers save girl after storm kills at least 12

A municipal cemetery in Petropolis suffered major damage under the heavy rains (Pablo PORCIUNCULA)
A municipal cemetery in Petropolis suffered major damage under the heavy rains (Pablo PORCIUNCULA)

Search teams in southeastern Brazil rescued a girl buried for more than 16 hours in the rubble of a collapsed house following a powerful storm that has claimed at least a dozen lives.

Authorities have deployed teams to the mountainous areas of Rio de Janeiro state, describing the situation caused by the deluge there as "critical".

Four of the deaths in Rio state occurred when the storm caused a house to collapse in the city of Petropolis, 70 kilometers (45 miles) inland from the capital.

The girl's father, who was found dead next to her on Saturday morning, had "heroically protected the girl with his body," a neighbor told AFP.

"We are in pain, but grateful for this miracle," said Luis Claudio de Souza, 63.

The deluge came as Brazil, South America's largest country, suffers through a recent string of extreme weather events, which experts say are more likely to occur due to climate change.

At least eight people have been killed in the state of Rio de Janeiro, officials said, while the neighboring state of Espirito Santo has confirmed at least four dead and seven missing.

Such environmental tragedies "are intensifying with climate change," President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, adding that thousands had been left homeless by the storm.

He expressed sympathy for the victims, and said his government was working with state and local authorities to "protect, prevent and repair flood damage."

Espirito Santo's governor Renato Casagrande said the situation in the town of Mimoso do Sul was "chaotic," with the number of fatalities there yet to be determined.

And in Sao Paolo state, two children were hospitalized for injuries sustained during the storm on Friday.

Rio Governor Claudio Castro on Friday said the situation in Petropolis was "critical" due to "intense rains and the overflowing of the Quitandinha River."

- Heatwave -

Dozens of soldiers with dogs were deployed to the scene in Rio state, while schools opened their doors to the displaced, Castro said.

Around 90 people have been rescued since Friday, according to a bulletin from an emergency committee comprising Rio government and civil defense officials.

Images on local media showed rivers of water, mud and debris rushing down slopes in picturesque Petropolis, which in February 2022 saw at least 241 deaths from another catastrophic storm.

In Mimoso do Sul, a fire truck was seen being dragged down a street by currents, while images released Saturday by the state fire department showed entire neighborhoods under water, with only the roofs of houses visible.

Forecasts predicted heavy rainfall continuing Saturday in the mountains and north of Rio.

Petropolis has already recorded 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) in 24 hours, while other cities, such as Teresopolis and Mage, added more than 22 cm, according to official estimates.

The National Institute of Meteorology had predicted a severe storm, particularly in Rio, with rainfall of 20 cm a day from Friday through Sunday. Normally, the area receives 14 cm of rain in all of March.

Rio authorities had declared an administrative holiday on Friday as the storm approached and urged people to stay home.

The storm follows a record heat wave, when humidity helped send the heat index soaring above 62 degrees Celsius (143 degrees Fahrenheit).

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