Itajai, Brazil. Rescue workers have pulled nine more bodies from beneath mud and rubble in Brazil’s flood-ravaged southern state of Santa Catarina, bringing the death toll to 109, the state civil defense department said on Saturday.
Most of the 109 victims were killed in mudslides and 19 were still missing. At least 78,000 people in 14 cities have been driven from their homes, with many taking shelter in churches, schools, gymnasiums and other public buildings.
Harrowing stories continued to emerge from Itajai, a riverside city of 180,000 where receding floodwaters left homes and furniture caked with mud and debris.
In a makeshift shelter at a school, Maria Salete, a 55-year-old housewife, sobbed as she recalled the mudslide that killed her three grandchildren.
“It all happened so quickly” she said. “I don’t remember how I got out. All of a sudden there was this huge mountain of mud and my grandchildren had disappeared.”
Outside the city, Evandro Schmidt, a 36-year-old rice farmer, helped clear away mud, rocks and debris that clogged a highway.
“I never thought I would see so much horror in my life,” he said. “I helped dig out the bodies of several of my neighbors.”
“Things will never be the same again. I don’t know what I am going to do to survive,” he said, walking away and shaking his head.
Officials have imposed a 10 p.m. curfew in Itajai to prevent looting.
Volunteers and troops worked around the clock distributing tons of medicine, food, water and clothes to people in a region where power outages contributed to a lack of drinking water and fresh food.