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32 killed as heatwave roasts Brazil

Thursday February 11, 2010 - 09:49 EDT

The worst heatwave to hit Rio de Janeiro in 50 years turned the city into a pre-Carnival furnace and killed 32 elderly people further south, officials said.

According to the Inmet national weather service, recorded temperatures in Rio were above 40 degrees Celsius - and felt more like above 50C.

"The heatwave in Rio is seen as historic. February right now is the hottest month for the past 50 years," meteorologist Giovanni Dolif said.

On Monday and Tuesday, the scalding conditions proved deadly for 32 elderly residents in Santos, a city close to Sao Paulo and 350 kilometres south of Rio.

Half of them succumbed in their homes and the other half died as they sought help in clinics, a spokeswoman for the city's health service said.

The heatwave made Rio the hottest place on the planet on Tuesday, save for Ada, a town in eastern Ghana, according to data from the World Meteorological Organization.

Mr Dolif said being in Rio was worse than being in a dry desert because seaside humidity gave the temperature a suffocating boost, making it feel much higher.

El Nino, the phenomenon in which unusually hot Pacific Ocean waters disrupt weather patterns, was blamed for the heatwave by preventing the formation of clouds.

Rio's heatwave was forecast to continue into the weekend, when the city's famous four-day Carnival starts.

Sapped residents in the city have taken to going to the beaches at night to seek a respite from the heat.

Doctors were recommending cold showers and lots of liquids to mitigate the risks of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

- AFP

Editor's note (April 12 2010): The headline of the article was changed from "32 killed as heatwave roasts Rio", also a sentence was removed in which an incorrect temperature for Rio de Janeiro was recorded.

- AFP

© AFP 2010

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