1,500 cars flooded sitting in city impound lot

Leonardo Contesini, Jalopnik Brazil

When flood waters rise, all you can do is prepare for the worst, including parking your car on higher streets. But what if your car is impounded by police in a low-lying lot, like these 1,500 vehicles in southern Brazil?

On Sept. 7th, heavy rain around the city of Blumenau in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina sent the Itajaí River rising at a foot per hour, which meant that within six hours the city would have more than 300 streets completely flooded. The river eventually flooded at 40 feet over its banks, triggering mudslides and cutting off electricity.


When the river reached its maximum, the land used as an impound area by the local vehicle enforcement authority was covered by several feet of muddy water and debris. The staff tried to move some of the 1,500 vehicles there to the highest parts of the site, but even there the water level reached 2 1/2 feet.

But the flood wasn't the only surprise waiting for vehicle owners. The municipal vehicle authorities in Blumenau told residents last week it would not be automatically paying for damages; owners would have to either file a claim with the department's attorneys, or go to court.

It's not surprising the city would attempt to limit its losses; Brazilian insurance companies typically declare total losses on any car flooded up to the dashboard. The value of the vehicles lost in the flood would swamp the city's entire budget. But there's the issue of why so many vehicles had been seized in the first place. While some of the cars were impounded for bad debts or off-lease auctions, many were impounded for failure to be licensed as a way to avoid Brazil's annual vehicle property tax of up to 4% of a car's value.


The question still remains: Who will pay for these cars?

A version of this story originally appeared on Jalopnik Brazil

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