Brazil flood and mudslide deaths rise as search goes on

More than 350 people have now been killed by flooding and mudslides in south-eastern Brazil, say officials.

In the mountain towns of Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis, the reported death tolls are at least 168, 152 and 36 respectively, Brazilian media reported.

Rescuers are bringing helicopters in as the search for survivors continues in the region north of Rio de Janeiro.

President Dilma Rousseff is flying to the area to inspect the damage.

‘It was hell’

Heavy rain began falling again early on Thursday as rescuers resumed their search and is expected to continue throughout much of the day.

The collapse of electricity and communications systems, combined with the destruction of many roads and bridges, has severely hampered the rescue work.

More than 800 rescuers are conducting searches and the Brazilian navy is sending a field hospital to the area.

Morgues in the affected towns were full, with churches and police stations receiving bodies.

Officials in Brazil’s civil defence department have warned there could be hundreds more bodies yet to be recovered in Teresopolis alone, the Globo media organisation reported.

One area of Teresopolis, Campo Grande, remains cut off entirely and is yet to be reached by any rescuers. It is feared 150 people may be buried there.

One resident of Teresopolis, Angela Marina de Carvalho Silva, told the Associated Press news agency she feared she might have lost 15 relatives, including five nieces and nephews.

“There are so many disappeared – and so many that will probably never be found,” she said.

She said she had taken refuge at a neighbour’s house on higher ground and watched the water sweep away cars, tree branches and animals and destroy the homes of friends and family.

“There was nothing we could do. It was hell.”

Scene of disaster in Teresopolis, 13 Jan It is feared many more may have been killed in Teresopolis

A state of emergency has been declared in the town, after the mayor called the floods “a huge catastrophe, a major disaster”.

Sixteen more bodies were found there early on Thursday, but the most dramatic rise was in Nova Friburgo, where 48 more people were reported to have died.

Amid the death and destruction in Nova Friburgo there was one glimmer of hope: a six-month-old baby, reportedly named Nicholas, was found alive after 12 hours trapped in the rubble of a ruined building, reports said.

In Petropolis, Mayor Paul Mustrangi said the waters had ripped through some areas with devastating effect.

“There is nothing left. All the houses were hit,” he told Jornal do Brasil.

On Wednesday President Rousseff signed a decree authorising 780m reais ($480m; £296m) in emergency funding for the affected areas.

‘Huge catastrophe’

With many people still missing, it is feared the death toll could rise even further and there is concern about water-borne diseases.

Witnesses said rescue teams were using heavy machinery, shovels and their bare hands to dig through tonnes of mud and debris.

Civil defence officials in Teresopolis said that the city was soaked with 144mm of rain in 24 hours – more than the usual amount for the whole of January.

Power and telephone lines are down in the three towns, and there is no drinking water, officials say.

Major roads have been cut by floods and landslides, adding traffic chaos to the challenges facing state officials.

One resident described the situation just outside Petropolis as a “sea of mud”.

“I’ve lived here 25 years and never seen anything like it,” Manoel Candido da Rocha Sobrinho told Folha website.

“I live in a higher spot but when I look down I just see a sea of mud. Most people saved themselves by scrambling up trees or fleeing to higher ground.”

Earlier this week, torrential rains in neighbouring Sao Paulo state left 13 people dead and brought traffic chaos to Brazil’s biggest city.

Are you in the area? Have you been affected by the flooding? You can send us your stories and experiences using the form below.

Posted by: Jay Ale                            Source: BBC

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