665 dead in Brazil mudslidesBy IANS
Monday, January 17, 2011
Rio de Janeiro, Jan 18 (IANS/EFE) The number of dead from downpours that have deluged the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro has climbed to 665, authorities said Monday.
Sunday’s rains caused three deaths and further mudslides that blocked some highways and impeded search efforts, which were resumed before dawn in the hard-hit cities of Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo.
By far the greatest number of victims died in mudslides in the early hours last Wednesday, when tonnes of mud and stones buried hundreds in their mountainside homes.
Up to now, recovery teams have found 312 bodies in Nova Friburgo, 276 en Teresopolis, 58 in Petropolis and 19 in Sumidouro.
Another 133 people remain unaccounted for.
At least 6,050 people lost their homes and another 7,780 had to be evacuated temporarily to shelters set up in public schools.
The coordination of rescue operations was turned over late last week to the armed forces, which established an air base for their operations at Granja Comary, the Brazilian national soccer team’s training facility in Teresopolis.
Operating from that base are six helicopters used to rescue people from isolated areas.
Meteorologists forecast continuing rains in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro state at least until Thursday.
Rio Gov. Sergio Cabral Sunday declared a state of public disaster in the seven most affected municipalities in order to facilitate reconstruction.
The emergency declaration will initially be in force for a period of 180 days in Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis, Petropolis, Bom Jardim, Sao Jose do Vale do Rio Preto, Sumidouro and Areal.
The declaration makes it possible to contract companies, hire workers and purchase material with no need to offer the works for public bidding, and to sidestep other types of bureaucratic red tape.
Besides the work of rescue and recovery, authorities are also attempting to reestablish public services, since many areas are still without electricity, water or telephone services.