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Floods kill dozens in São Paulo state, canceling some Carnival events

Floods and landslides in Brazil left dozens dead and hundreds displaced on Carnival weekend in the state of São Paulo according to local authorities on Feb. 19. (Video: Reuters)
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RIO DE JANEIRO — At least 36 people were killed and several hundred more displaced in coastal communities in the state of São Paulo, after heavy rains on the weekend caused flooding and landslides that swallowed homes and cars, and forced officials to cancel some Carnival festivities.

São Paulo’s governor, Tarcísio de Freitas, declared a state of “public calamity” on Sunday for the hard-hit areas of Ubatuba, São Sebastião, Ilhabela, Caraguatatuba and Bertioga. The state government said 970 people have been displaced and nearly 750 left homeless by the flooding.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he planned to visit São Paulo on Monday.

“We are going to bring together all levels of government and, with the solidarity of society, treat the wounded, look for the missing, restore highways, power connections and telecommunications in the region,” he said in a tweet. “My condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy.”

The dead included a 7-year-old, according to the São Paulo fire department, and officials have said the number could rise further. The army has been deployed to aid search-and-rescue efforts. Among the rescued, the governor said, was a mother in labor and her newborn son.

Brazil’s civil defense agency said some of the affected areas saw more than 23 inches of rainfall in 24 hours. Inclement weather was forecast for early this week, potentially further complicating response efforts.

Footage on Brazilian television showed roads in the hard-hit areas blocked by fallen trees and other debris, or transformed into muddy rivers. Local media reported that the floods and landslides had severed access to some of the affected areas by land and that they were accessible only by air.