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Close to 100 killed in flash floods and landslides in Brazil’s tourist hotspot

Dozens of homes were damaged by landslides after heavy rains in Petropolis. (Pic:BBC)

Nearly 100 people have died in landslides and flash flooding in Brazil’s popular tourist city of Petrópolis, according to a BBC report.

The city, which is located in the hills north of the capital Rio de Janeiro, was lashed by torrential rain.

Houses in hillside neighbourhoods were destroyed and cars swept away as floodwaters raced through the city's streets.

Search and rescue teams are combing the mud for survivors, the report said.

Brazil's National Civil Defence said on Twitter 24 people had been rescued alive so far, with 94 confirmed deaths. Videos shared on social media showed extensive damage and vehicles floating in the streets.

"The situation is almost like war … Cars hanging from poles, cars overturned, lots of mud and water still," Rio de Janeiro Governor Claudio Castro told journalists.

With 35 people reported missing, he said that the search and rescue efforts would continue non-stop.

The city is reported to have been lashed by a catastrophic three-hour spell of rain that was equivalent to what it normally records in three months.

Homes and shops were destroyed by the flooding and

in one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods, up to 80 houses were buried by landslides.

"The water came very fast and with great force. My loss was 100%. Our life was already tough with the pandemic… and this tragedy still comes," shopkeeper Henrique Pereira told Reuters news agency.

Around 300 people are being housed in schools and shelters, and charities are calling for donations of mattresses, food, clothing and face masks.

The city's mayor has declared a state of emergency and President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on an official trip to Russia, has said he will organise immediate help for the victims.

This is the latest in a series of torrential rains to hit Brazil in the last three months, which scientists attribute to climate change.

Petrópolis and the surrounding region were early hit by devastating storms in January 2011, which claimed more than 900 lives in floods and landslides.