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Death Toll Rises in Brazil Flooding


The bodies of victims of the landslides lie on the ground in Teresopolis, 13 Jan 2011

The bodies of victims of the landslides lie on the ground in Teresopolis, 13 Jan 2011

Rescue workers in Brazil are struggling to dig through rubble in an effort to find survivors following raging floods and mudslides that have left nearly 400 people dead and hundreds homeless.

Heavy rains triggered the disaster that has left a trail of destruction through the Serrana region near the city of Rio de Janeiro. Hillsides collapsed after storms dumped the equivalent of a month's rain in the region, and forecasters have warned of more rain in the coming days.

In the town of Teresopolis, at least 161 people were reported killed, with hundreds more left homeless.

The mayor of Teresopolis, Jorge Mario Sedlacek, describes the disaster as the worst in the town's history. Additionally, at least 168 people were reported to have died in the nearby town of Nova Friburgo, and at least 36 others were killed in Petropolis. Deaths also were reported in other towns.

In Teresopolis, churches and police stations were turned into makeshift morgues.

Brazil's government has allocated some $460 million in emergency aid for the affected areas. President Dilma Rousseff, who took office January 1, was flying over the region Thursday.

Earlier in the week, heavy rains killed 13 people in Sao Paulo state.

Landslides and floods are common in Brazil, often affecting poor communities with shacks built on steep, unstable hillsides.

In January of last year, more than 50 people died in mudslides in the beach town of Angra dos Reis, and at least 180 people died in landslides last April that devastated slum communities in Rio.

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