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Powerful, 'abnormal' rains lash Rio de Janeiro, killing at least three

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Powerful, 'abnormal' rains lash Rio de Janeiro, killing at least three
People walk in the rain, at the Babilonia slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares   -   Copyright  PILAR OLIVARES(Reuters)
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By Pedro Fonseca and Rodrigo Viga Gaier

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Torrential rains doused Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, killing at least three people and sowing chaos in Brazil’s second largest city, which declared a state of emergency after a storm the mayor described as “absolutely abnormal.”

Two adult sisters died when their home in a slum was buried in a mudslide, while a man drowned in another part of the city, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

The rains began around Monday evening and had not let up by midday Tuesday, with a heavy downpour forecast through the end of the day. Some parts of the city got more than 21 cm (8 inches of rain within four hours, according to the mayor’s office. That is three times the monthly average rainfall for April.

Videos on local news showed normally calm residential streets turned into raging torrents that dragged people and cars. A coastal bike path meant to be a legacy of the 2016 Olympics, already weakened by previous storms, suffered more damage, with chunks of it falling into the sea.

“Rio de Janeiro lost three victims in these rains,” Mayor Marcelo Crivella told an early morning news conference. “These rains are absolutely abnormal for this time of year; none of us expected so much rain at this time.”

The mayor’s office declared a state of emergency on Monday night. Major roads were closed, and the mayor’s office said 785 places in the city were without power.

Emergency services went into action across the city to rescue people trapped in cars and out on the streets. TV images on Tuesday showed divers examining a car submerged in a flooded underpass.

Rio’s streets were quieter than usual on Tuesday, as nearly all schools shut and people worked from home to avoid the risk of being trapped at work.

The storm was the second major one to batter Rio in two months. A violent tempest that hit the city in February killed at least seven people.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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