Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

More than 300 die in Brazil floods

A mudslide in Teresopolis, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil (AP)
People walk on a flooded street in Sao Paolo's Vila Itaim neighborrhood (AP)

More than 300 people have died and rescuers are searching for dozens more who are missing after heavy rains triggered mudslides in Brazil.

In the hardest-hit town of Teresopolis, 40 miles north of Rio de Janiero, where the civil defence agency said at least 146 people died, hundreds of family members crowded around the mountain town's morgue waiting to identify bodies.

More corpses were laid out on a street by the police station, covered by blankets. Rains hit the town overnight, though no new mudslides were reported.

Rescuers used heavy machinery, shovels and bare hands in attempts to find survivors.

At least 50 were still missing and one neighbourhood in Teresopolis had not been reached yet by authorities.

In a neighbouring town, firefighters rescued a 25-year-old man who held his six-month-old son for 15 hours until they were both pulled out alive. The man's wife and mother-in-law were feared dead.

Heavy rains and mudslides kill hundreds of people across Brazil each year, especially during the South American summer. The worst hit are the poor, whose rickety homes are often built on steep slopes with weak or no foundations.

The mountains saw 10 inches of rain fall in less than 24 hours. More rain, possibly heavy at times, is forecast through the weekend.

"There are so many disappeared - and so many that will probably never be found," said Angela Marina de Carvalho Silva, a resident of Teresopolis who feared she may have lost 15 relatives, including five nieces and nephews. "There was nothing we could do. It was hell," she said.

President Dilma Rousseff signed a measure on Wednesday sending 461 million US dollars (£295 million) to towns in Rio and Sao Paulo states damaged during the recent rains. The money will go to repairing infrastructure and preventing future disasters.

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