Saturday, March 27, 2010

Furacão Catarina 2004

Civil defense officials said Monday the storm — dubbed Catarina by meteorologists — left at least three people dead, 38 injured and more than 2,000 people homeless. (Related video: Storm slams Brazil)

Rescuers plucked two fishermen from the sea and found the body of another off Brazil's southern coast Monday.

Brazilian meteorologists, meanwhile, disputed assertions by U.S. weather experts that the storm was a hurricane.

U.S. officials said the storm, which struck land some 520 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro packing sustained winds of more than 74 mph, appeared to be the first hurricane on record in the South Atlantic.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami estimated the storm was a full-fledged, Category I hurricane with central winds of 75-80 mph. Some gusts reportedly hit 94 mph.

But Brazilians, who have long prided themselves as having a country free of hurricanes, were not convinced.

"The system that hit Santa Catarina this weekend was not a hurricane," Brazil's National Space Research Institute said in a statement Monday, arguing that it didn't behave like a hurricane.

"This system was totally different from anything we've ever seen here," said Laura Rodrigues, a meteorologist at the Santa Catarina state weather bureau. "It may be that it was neither a hurricane nor a subtropical cyclone, but rather something completely new."

Jack Beven, a specialist at the U.S. Hurricane Center, said all data point to a hurricane, but suggested that American and Brazilian officials "analyze the data a bit further" to see if they can reach a resolution.

Worst hit was Santa Catarina state, where 14 cities and towns remained without drinking water and 11 had no electricity Monday.

Santa Catarina Civil defense official Marcio Luis Alves said at least 1,990 people lost their homes and 9,590 were forced to flee. More than 30,000 houses across the state were damaged, and 280 were destroyed.

The storm also damaged 1,373 public buildings and private businesses, Alves said. Fifty were destroyed, including a hospital.

Alves said that meteorologists provided ample warning about what was coming, averting an even worse disaster.

On Monday, some 5,200 people were working across the state to restore the situation to normal.

In neighboring Rio Grande do Sul state, the situation was less serious with only about 200 people forced to flee their homes and about 1,000 houses damaged by the storm.

"Here the winds only reached about 50-56 mph," said civil defense Capt. Gustavo Souza.

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