During the New Year’s holiday, torrential rains swept the southeast coast of Brazil, causing catastrophic mudslides that killed at least 75 people and resulted in millions of dollars in property damage.
According to media reports, the town that received the brunt of the devastation was a popular resort town of Angra dos Reis, two hours west of Rio de Janeiro, where at least 44 individuals perished. Many of the victims were found in a poorer neighborhood where houses and huts had been built on slopes.
The town is also home to one of Brazil’s major nuclear plants, and there have been calls for temporarily closing the facility due to safety concerns.
Such devastating mudslides can and do happen in the United States, where they are estimated to kill 25 to 50 people every year.
However, the Emergency Survival Information Center says there are many ways to protect households from this type of danger.
First, it recommends refraining from building houses near steep slopes, close to mountain edges, near drainage ways or natural erosion valleys. Families who live in such areas should get a ground assessment of their property and consult a professional about possible corrective measures.
For those caught in a landslide, the experts suggest moving away from the path of the mud, earth or debris flow as quickly as possible. If escape is not possible, it is best to curl into a tight ball to protect the head.