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Powerful storm leaves at least nine dead in Brazil

Members of the Civil Defense, firefighters and neighbours work to rescue victims in a zone affected by heavy rains in Petropolis, Brazil (Pablo PORCIUNCULA)
Members of the Civil Defense, firefighters and neighbours work to rescue victims in a zone affected by heavy rains in Petropolis, Brazil (Pablo PORCIUNCULA)

A powerful storm has claimed at least nine lives in southeastern Brazil, particularly in the mountainous part of Rio de Janeiro state, where authorities on Saturday deployed rescue teams to deal with a "critical" situation.

Three people died in a house collapse in the city of Petropolis, 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the capital, according to a bulletin from an emergency committee comprising Rio government and civil defense officials.

In addition, an AFP team confirmed the discovery Saturday of another body in the rubble. Earlier, a girl who had been buried overnight was pulled out alive.

Other deaths were reported earlier in Santa Cruz da Serra, where a man drowned when his truck plunged into a river; in Teresopolis, where a person died in a house collapse; and in Arraial do Cabo, where a person was struck by lightning.

In addition, two children, aged three and nine, died Friday in separate storm-related events in Sao Paolo state, officials said.

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

Dozens of soldiers with dogs were deployed to the scene, while schools opened their doors to the displaced, the governor said.

As of Saturday morning, some 90 people had been rescued alive, the bulletin said.

Images on local media showed rivers of water, mud and debris rushing down slopes in picturesque Petropolis, where memories remain fresh of a catastrophic storm in February 2022 that claimed 241 lives.

The latest storm dropped 270 millimeters (11 inches) of rain in just 24 hours, the Rio government said.

The National Institute of Meteorology had predicted a severe storm, particularly in Rio, with rainfall of 200mm a day from Friday through Sunday -- more than the 141mm the area normally receives in all of March.

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

The rains came as a powerful cold front descended on the area just days after a record heat wave had seen temperatures of up to 62 centigrade (143 Fahrenheit).

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