- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Flooding and mudslides from the heaviest deluge ever recorded in Rio killed at least 100 people and left many more homeless, officials said Wednesday as the rains finally began to ease.

A minimum 2,000 people were forced from their homes by punishing rain that filled streets with raging torrents and ground Brazil’s second-biggest city to a halt the previous day. All told, about 11 inches of rain fell within 36 hours.

“When the man upstairs sends us this much rain, there isn’t a thing that anyone can do,” Pedro Souza said as he tried to unclog a sewer drain with a broom outside an apartment building in Copacabana.

The death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers picked through tons of mud that barreled through precarious hillside slums, where most of the deaths were registered.

Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Sergio Cabral declared a three-day mourning period, and children were kept from schools for a second straight day.

As the sun began to emerge in parts of Rio, streets that had teemed with floodwaters now filled with traffic as many residents returned to work.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes urged people to stay home, however.

“The situation improved … but the less people are on the streets, the better,” Mr. Paes told GloboNews TV. “People should not go out if they don’t have to.”

The city remained on alert amid fears that more rain could dislodge saturated ground and cause more slides, Mr. Paes said. Authorities reported 104 people injured and 65 missing.

Pockets of rains continued to cause trouble.

Some roads were still underwater, and a Copa Libertadores match between Flamengo and Universidad de Chile was postponed until Thursday because of damage at Maracana Stadium. The Copa Libertadores is Latin America’s most important soccer club competition.

Officials said potential mudslides threatened at least 10,000 houses in this city of 6 million people.

Some criminals took advantage of the traffic jams to rob stranded motorists, police reported.

Julia Freitas, a 25-year-old university student, told O Globo newspaper she was approached in her car by a group of men offering help.

“When I rolled down my window, one put a shard of glass to my neck and took my watch, cell phone and purse,” Ms. Freitas said.

Officials downplayed the possibility of similar downpours derailing World Cup matches in 2014 or the Olympics in 2016, noting that those events are not scheduled to be held during the nation’s rainy season.

Forecasters predict more rain through the weekend, though it is expected to be lighter.

Associated Press writers Stan Lehman and Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

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