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World Bank Preparing $485 Million in Brazil Flood Aid

A boy pushes his bicycle in a flooded street after heavy rains at Jardim Pantanal neighborhood in Sao Paulo, 15 Jan 2011

The World Bank says it is preparing to lend Brazil $485 million in emergency relief after flooding and mudslides devastated parts of the country.

The World Bank's Brazil director, Makhtar Diop, said Tuesday the bank hopes to approve the first portion of the loan "in the coming weeks." He said the initial piece would be worth $290 million.

The Brazilian government last week allocated $460 million in aid.

Ffficials said Tuesday the disaster's death toll is now more than 700.

Rescue crews, including military helicopters, continue to try to reach residents after heavy rains sent an avalanche of mud, water and rocks plowing through towns and villages.

On Monday, authorities sent hundreds of emergency personnel to neighborhoods that have been cut off from help by smashed roads and bridges.

The affected areas received the equivalent of a month's worth of rain in just a few hours.

The hardest hit towns have been Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo, and flooding has also affected Petropolis and Sumidouro.

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

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.