A Brazilian court has issued an injunction allowing civil defense teams to forcibly evacuate individuals living in high-risk areas in São Sebastião, one of the cities of São Paulo state worst affected by the extreme weather conditions of the past weekend. Torrential rain caused landslides that blocked roads, killing at least 48 people, with dozens more still missing and thousands displaced.
The numbers could go up as rescue teams update the situation.
São Paulo Governor Tarcísio de Freitas said that some individuals have refused to leave their homes, despite the continuing risk of landslides, due to fears of looting. The governor emphasized that the measure of forcibly removing people would only be used as a last resort, with the initial focus being on convincing individuals to leave their homes voluntarily and relocate to shelters.
São Paulo’s coast is overshadowed by the Serra do Mar, a long range of mountains that runs along Brazil’s South and Southeast. It is an area of steep slopes, shallow soil, and frequent rains, which create conditions that make landslides a constant danger. Authorities warn that heavy rainfall is expected to continue through the end of the week.
Over the weekend, the beach cities of São Sebastião and Bertioga received more rain than they had in the previous two months combined. Indeed, the region saw the most rain ever recorded in a 24-hour period in Brazil.
Brazil’s official statistics agency estimates that 2 million Brazilians live in high-risk areas for natural disasters. Regional Development Minister Waldez Góes on Tuesday said this number could be twice as high — with 4 million people living across 14,000 high-risk areas.