April 7 - Rio de Janeiro, the city due to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, has been left paralysed today after torrential rain triggered a landslide that killed nearly 100 people.

The ground gave way in steep hillside slums, cutting red-brown paths of destruction through shantytowns.

Concrete and wooden homes were crushed and hurtled downhill, only to bury other structures.

The future host city of the Olympics and football World Cup ground to a near halt as Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes urged workers to stay home and closed all schools.
He said more rain was expected and urged people living in high-risk areas not to leave their homes.

Potential mudslides threatened at least 2,000 homes after eight inches (20 centimetres) of rain fell.

Paes said: "It is not advisable for people to leave their homes.

"We want to preserve lives."
A representative for the Rio de Janeiro fire department that is coordinating rescue efforts said 80 people have been killed and another 44 hospitalised.

Most of the victims were from Rio's hillside shantytowns whose homes were buried under tons of mud and rubble.

A spokesman said: "We expect the death toll to rise."

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called the events "a disgrace," and said it was the biggest storm in the history of the city.

Neither the 2014 World Cup nor the 2016 Olympics will be held during Brazil's rainy season, which normally takes place during the Southern Hemisphere's summer in December through February but this year has lasted into April.

Lula insisted Rio is ready to host the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics, but nevertheless promised the Government will start working now to improve drainage systems in areas traditionally affected by rains.

Lula said he was working with the local authorities to overcome mistakes "made 40 years ago by authorities who allowed people to settle in a disorderly fashion along ridges and hillsides in inadequate housing."

He said: "This is the greatest flooding in the history of Rio de Janeiro, the biggest amount of rain in a single day.

"And when the man upstairs is nervous and makes it rain, we can only ask him to stop the rain in Rio de Janeiro so we can go on with life in the city."

Paes rated the city's preparedness for heavy rainfall as "less than zero."

He said: "The situation is total chaos."

Firefighters had to use inflatable boats to rescue people from stranded buses after a river running alongside the Maracana Stadium broke its banks.

About 3,000 firefighters worked to rescue residents, Paes said.

Maracana Stadium flooded

The field at Maracana Stadium, which is expected to host several matches of the 2014 World Cup, including the final, and is due to host the Opening and Closing Ceremony's of the Olympics, was damaged.

Dressing rooms were flooded, forcing the city’s Sports Secretariat to suspend a Libertadores Cup match between Flamengo and Universidad de Chile.

The torrential rain caused power failures in eight neighborhoods including Barra da Tijuca, where nearly half of all Olympics events will be held and the future home of the Olympic Village that’s expected to host up to 11,000 athletes.

Thousands of motorists were stranded overnight on highways blocked by rising floodwaters.

Sergio Simoes, head of Rio de Janeiro's civil defence department told the Globo TV network that the amount of rain that fell was "more than any city is capable of supporting."

Claudio Ribeiro, a 24-year-old taxi driver, spent eight hours stranded on a Rio highway.

He told Associated Press: "I have never seen anything like this.

"Tell me, how is this city supposed to host the Olympics?

"Look at this chaos!"

Last November Rio was plunged into darkness for more than five hours after the country's worst power outrage for more than a decade.

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November 2009:
 Lula wants answers after Rio hit by Brazilian blackout