Death toll in Brazil rains rises to 549

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 16 (IANS/EFE) The death toll from the heavy downpour in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro has risen to 549, as the search for victims and survivors continued.

The regional government Saturday declared seven days of official mourning in honour of those who died.

Emergency operations focused on areas that have been inaccessible after being buried under tonnes of mud and stones following the landslides Wednesday.

Searches resumed Saturday in Teresopolis, Petropolis and Sumidouro cities where they were suspended Friday night due to lack of electricity and impossible working conditions.

According to the latest report by emergency management officials, the floods and mudslides caused 248 deaths in Nova Friburgo, 238 in Teresopolis, 43 in Petropolis, 18 in Sumidouro and two in Sao Jose do Vale do Rio Preto.

Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral declared seven days of official mourning beginning Monday.

Regional authorities estimate that close to 6,050 people have lost their homes while 7,780 have had to evacuate their dwellings temporarily because of the risk of being buried in further mudslides.

A large part of the region is still without electricity, telephone services or water.

The shortage of food and potable water, closed stores, few public services, impassable roads and the rain itself, was made even worse with incidents of looting.

In some places, local residents buried their neighbours’ bodies in improvised graves.

President Dilma Rousseff, who flew by helicopter over the affected areas and spoke with some of the homeless, has announced the immediate allocation of 100 million reais ($59 million) in aid for the victims.


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