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Gingersnap
01-14-2011, 12:01 PM
Brazil death toll rises as rescuers battle floods

Reuters
By Sergio Queiroz and Stuart Grudgings Sergio Queiroz And Stuart Grudgings Fri Jan 14, 6:52 am ET

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (Reuters) The death toll from massive flooding and landslides in Brazil topped 500 on Friday as renewed rainfall threatened to complicate efforts by rescue teams to reach survivors trapped in isolated areas.

In one of the country's worst natural disasters, rivers of mud tore through towns in the mountainous Serrana region outside Rio de Janeiro, leveling houses, throwing cars atop buildings and leaving thousands of people seeking shelter.

"The rain did not stop at dawn and is continuing in the morning, which is making the rescue efforts more difficult," said Lieutenant Rubens Placido, a fireman in the hard-hit town of Nova Friburgo. "The number of deaths is going to rise quite a bit. There are still a lot of people buried."

The flooding killed at least 529 people, according to local and state authorities, but rescuers are uncovering more victims buried under wrecked homes and toppled buildings. More than 13,500 people have been left homeless.

Emergency teams have to reach the worst-hit areas on foot and dig through the rubble by hand to find survivors because vehicles and heavy equipment still cannot cross blocked roads, the O Globo television news network reported.

The state of Rio de Janeiro sent military police to maintain order in the area after reports food had been looted from stores.

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AFP/Vanderlei Almeida

The disaster likely caused billions of dollars in damage and has presented President Dilma Rousseff with her first crisis only two weeks after taking office.

Beyond the loss of life and property, the damage from the rains could further boost food prices in parts of southeastern Brazil, a major concern for the government.

The Serrana region is an important producer of fruit and vegetables for the Rio area but the floods have not affected Brazil's main crops such as soy, sugar cane, oranges and coffee.

Yahoo (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110114/wl_nm/us_brazil_rains)