Two killed as buildings collapse in rain-soaked Brazil

A woman cries as she is comforted after a building collapsed in the Muzema community. PHOTO: REUTERS
Firefighters take a victim rescued from the rubble. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Firefighters search for victims under the debris. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - At least two people were killed in Brazil on Friday (April 12) when two buildings collapsed in a hillside neighbourhood near Rio de Janeiro, a region hard hit by heavy rain and flash floods, firefighters said.

The adjoining four-story structures were inundated as the Itanhanga neighbourhood, 30km west of downtown Rio, was drenched along with the rest of the region three days ago, resulting in multiple deaths.

At least two other people were injured when the buildings collapsed, said the firefighters, who managed to pull three people out alive.

Neighbours said the buildings crumbled early in the morning.

"There was a loud noise, the buildings collapsed and there was a great cloud of dust," said Muzema resident Isabel Cristina, 42.

"A friend who lived in the building was rushed to the hospital along with his family," she told AFP.

Juliana Carvalho, 34, moved to the Muzema favela in Itanhanga a month ago and bought a home in front of the buildings that collapsed. She had just woken when she heard the commotion and managed to escape with her daughter.

"My home shook. We ran and didn't look back," she said.

Muzema is hard to reach because of the widespread damage caused by the unusually heavy rain across the region, which began late Monday and continued into Tuesday, triggering flash flooding that turned some streets into raging rivers and swept away vehicles.

Heavy runoff from neighboring hills gushed through some apartment buildings and shops, leaving behind mud and debris.

Like many poor neighborhoods west of Rio de Janeiro, Muzema is run by militias loyal to criminal gangs that use violence to enforce their rule.

The gangs sell land rights and control access to city services such as water and electricity.

"Municipal control technicians need police support to carry out operations in that place," the mayor's office said on Twitter.

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