Apr 6, 2010 12:32 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5
Torrential rains caused floods and landslides that killed dozens of people in the state of Rio de Janeiro, shutting down transport and commerce in Brazil's second city, officials said Tuesday.
Reuters reported that at least 31 died after heavy rains that started on Monday, while Brazil's O Globo newspaper reported on its Web site that at least 56 people had been killed.
There was no explanation for the different death tolls, although key information often differs in the immediate aftermath of such events.
Most of the victims were killed by mudslides and at least 18 more people were seriously injured, the state's civil defense authority told Reuters.
The downpour is the worst the city of Rio - the future host of the Olympics and football World Cup - has recorded in 30 years, authorities said.
"The situation is critical. Roads are flooded and blocked," Mayor Eduardo Paes told Reuters. "We recommend people to stay at home."
Flights in and out of the city were either canceled or seriously delayed, according to the aviation authority Infraero.
TV images showed central parts of Rio de Janeiro flooded and abandoned cars under water.
On Copacabana beach, residents waded through ankle-deep water on their way to work but many employees got stuck in traffic and returned home.
The southern hemisphere summer has been particularly hot and rainy in Rio de Janeiro this year.
In January dozens of people were killed by a landslide in a plush beach resort halfway between Rio de Janeiro and the port city of Santos.
Meteorologists forecast more rain in the coming days, raising fears of more mudslides as rain-drenched soil becomes heavy.
Globo TV showed images of houses that slid down a ravine, crumbling into pieces and covered by an avalanche of mud.