Rio tries to restore order amid further rain after 96 killed

RAINS kept pummelling Rio de Janeiro yesterday as officials in Brazil’s second largest city scrambled to restore transit after 96 people were killed by landslides and floods.

Rio’s mayor said traffic had improved after flooded highways left commuters and residents stranded on Tuesday across the city, but called on people to postpone meetings and avoid travelling if possible.

“From the point of view of mobility, the situation is better than yesterday,” Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters.

“The city is starting to return to normal, but the rains are still intense.”

He called on those living in hillside slums at risk for mudslides — which were responsible for most of Tuesday’s deaths — to leave their homes as the rains continued.

A spokesman for Rio’s fire department said rescue workers are still searching for 49 people missing in the wake of the rains, the heaviest to hit the city in at least three decades.

The mayor said 1,200 people had been made homeless and that 10,000 houses remained at risk, mostly in the slums where about a fifth of Rio’s people live, often in precarious shacks that are highly vulnerable to heavy rains.

Television images showed central parts of Rio flooded and abandoned cars under water. Near Copacabana beach, residents waded through ankle-deep water on their way to work.

The latest flooding and transportation chaos has renewed attention on Rio’s poor infrastructure as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

In January, at least 76 people died in flooding and mudslides in Brazil’s most populous states of Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.

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