RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Torrents of flood water devastated towns and villages in northeastern Brazil, killing at least 42 people and leaving more than 600 missing, emergency officials said on Tuesday.
Days of heavy rain in the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco flooded towns, burst a river dam, and left more than 40,000 people without shelter, state officials said.
At least 29 people were killed in Alagoas and 607 were missing. About 500 of those missing were in the area of Uniao de Palmeiras, which was hit by a wall of water after a dam gave in under the weight of the floods.
“Unfortunately, some towns have been nearly 100 percent destroyed, basically wiped off the map,” Sandro Cavalcante, a spokesman for the Alagoas state Civil Defense agency, told Reuters.
In Pernambuco, to the north of Alagoas, 13 people were killed and nearly 18,000 people were made homeless, the national Civil Defense agency said. Alagoas had nearly 26,000 people without shelter.
Images from Globo Television showed whole towns flattened by the raging waters. Overturned cars lay among debris of hundreds of shattered houses and railway tracks were torn apart by the force of the water.
“There are towns that look like an atomic bomb was dropped on them,” the governor of Alagoas, Teotonio Vilela Filho, was quoted as saying by the O Globo newspaper.
“We are praying that they are alive,” the governor said of the missing people. “We are worried because bodies have started to wash ashore.”
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held an emergency meeting on Tuesday with federal and state official to determine the aid and rescue resources needed and was due to fly over the affected areas on Wednesday.
The federal government said it would allocate 100 million reais ($56 million) for relief efforts and send 20,000 baskets of basic food supplies to the two states, as well as mattresses and blankets for the thousands of homeless.
Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; editing by Mohammad Zargham