Floods and landslides across the planet

Rescuers battle against the devastating effects of heavy rains to save lives in Brazil, Australia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Tom Phillips in Brazil and Sam Jones report Rescue workers in Brazil were battling to reach areas cut off by landslides that have killed nearly 400 people, as rain and floods continued to devastate Australia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

January 14, 2011 09:05 am | Updated November 17, 2021 03:33 am IST

Sri Lankan flood victims load their belongings to a boat in Batticaloa. File Photo

Sri Lankan flood victims load their belongings to a boat in Batticaloa. File Photo

Torrents of mud and water that followed heavy rains cut a destructive path through the mountainous Serrana region near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, toppling houses, buckling roads and burying families.

“It’s like an earthquake struck some areas,” said Jorge Mario, mayor of the Brazilian mountain top town of Teresopolis, where at least 158 people died in a mudslide.

Fernando Rodrigues, a bar owner, added: “It was terrifying. There were cars flying everywhere. It was dark. People were screaming.” The total number of deaths due to the weather in southern Brazil is at least 388, including 13 who died in Sao Paulo state earlier this week.

Floods in Australia, meanwhile, have left parts of Brisbane looking “like a war zone”, according to the Queensland premier, Anna Bligh. Peak waters in the city were lower than predicted, but 12,000 homes were flooded in the city of two million, and 118,000 buildings were left without power. Bligh said restoration efforts would cost as much as A$5bn.

In eastern Sri Lanka, days of heavy rain have caused floods and mudslides affecting more than a million people and forcing 325,000 from their homes. So far, 23 people have died, but doctors are bracing themselves for outbreaks of typhoid and diarrhoea as water supplies become contaminated.

In central and southern parts of the Philippines rain, floods and landslides have killed 42 and displaced nearly 400,000. Damage to crops and infrastructure is estimated at more than 1bn pesos.

The Australian and Philippine floods have been linked to the La Nina weather pattern, which causes Pacific sea temperatures to cool, bringing more rainfall in the western Pacific, and less in the east.

Omar Baddour, of the World Meteorological Organisation, said a link between climate change and La Nina remained unclear. He said: “As we know, extreme events -- whether their cause is due to La Nina or El Nino or other factors -- will be more intense in the era of climate change.”

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