Police are scouring the sewers under Rio's sprawling slums for hundreds of drug traffickers who fled an unprecedented military onslaught on the favelas that netted 40 tonnes of narcotics but few arrests.
With Rio's World Cup and Olympic hosting duties looming, about 2,600 paratroopers, marines and elite police backed up by helicopters and armoured personnel carriers led a pre-dawn assault on Sunday on the traffickers' bastion of Grota, a lawless city within a city with a population of 400,000.
Grota is just one of 15 favelas that make up the Complexo do Alemao. But of the 500 drug dealers thought to be hiding in the maze of slums, only 40 have been arrested.
Officials said the dealers may have escaped through a large network of sewers before the police arrived.
Several dealers were arrested as they tried to escape dressed in religious or municipal employee uniforms, police special operations chief Paulo Henrique Moraes told reporters.
He said the sewers had been built by different companies and that the construction was halted and restarted numerous times, meaning that no single engineer knows their exact layout and dimensions.
Tue 30th November, 2010