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Floods Wreck Brazil’s Largest City

March 2, 1999

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ Street cleaners and residents of South America’s biggest city today cleaned clogged storm drains and removed tons of mud left behind after torrential rains flooded parts of Sao Paulo.

Civil defense officials said yesterday’s two-hour downpour caused mudslides that killed six people in a shantytown. Another person drowned in the waters that transformed streets into raging rivers.

Close to 5 inches of rain fell on this city of 10 million, bringing it to a near standstill.

The Pinheiros and Tiete rivers overflowed, flooding the city’s two main highways and stranding thousands of cars in more than 60 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Fire department rescue teams used rubber boats to rescue motorists trapped inside the Anhangabau Tunnel where waters rose more than 7 feet, submerging at least 100 cars.

Police said motorists trapped in traffic jams were easy prey for thieves who went from car to car stealing money and jewelry at gunpoint.

More heavy rains were expected today.

``I refuse to go into the office today,″ said attorney Margareth Fonseca. ``It usually takes me less than 20 minutes to get home. Yesterday it took more than four hours.″

An office supply company refused to guarantee delivery, saying ``we’re letting our people go home early before the rains come.″

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