At least 40 people have now lost their lives after torrential rain caused floods and landslides in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 19 February 2023.
Sao Paulo Governor Tarcísio de Freitas declared a period of official mourning throughout the state due to the tragedy on the north coast.
“Official mourning is declared in the State, for three days, in a manifestation of deep regret for the victims of the heavy rains that hit the municipalities of Bertioga, Caraguatatuba, Guarujá, Ilhabela, São Sebastião and Ubatuba,” the governor said on 20 February.
Forty deaths have now been confirmed; 39 in São Sebastião and one in Ubatuba. The Secretary of State for Health reported 18 adults and 5 children have received hospital treatment for injuries. Of this total, six are in a serious condition while 13 were described as stable
Large-scale rescue and relief efforts are ongoing. More than 600 people from the security and rescue forces of the Government of the State of São Paulo, the Armed Forces, the Federal Police, the municipal government of São Sebastião and volunteers are working in affected areas. The priority continues to help the victims and supply more than 2,496 displaced people, the state government said.
Dozens of roads remain blocked, including stretches of the Rio-Santos highway, which has left an area stretching from Barra do Sahy to Boiçucanga in the municipality of São Sebastião isolated, according to the state government.
Brazil’s Highest Recorded Rainfall
In a statement of 20 February, Governor Tarcísio de Freitas said that the accumulation of rain in the cities of the North Coast of São Paulo was the highest recorded in Brazil’s history.
According to the National Center for Disaster Monitoring Prediction (Cemaden), in 24 hours to 19 February, 682 mm of rain fell in Bertioga, 626 mm in São Sebastião, 337 mm in Ilhabela, 335 mm in Ubatuba and 234 mm in Caraguatatuba.
The previous high was set in 2022 when Petrópolis in Rio de Janeiro state recorded 530 mm of rain in 24 hours.
The governor said the catastrophe on the north coast is one of the worst incidents of flooding and landslides in the state, and compared the situation to the floods in Guarujá in 2020, and in Itaóca in 2014.
President Stresses the Need to Rebuild Homes on Safer Ground
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and a delegation of ministers and technicians from the Federal Government flew over some of the affected areas on 20 February and thereafter held meetings with local and state authorities, including Governor Tarcísio de Freitas and the mayor of São Sebastião, Felipe Augusto.
President Lula highlighted the need to help the most vulnerable people, in particular those who have lost their homes.
He reaffirmed the Federal Government’s willingness to help solve the problem of housing in areas at risk of flooding and landslides. He stressed the need to rebuild housing on safer ground.