15 Jan 2011

More rain hampers Brazil flood relief effort

11:13 pm on 15 January 2011

Emergency workers in south-east Brazil are working to reach areas cut off by floods and landslides that have claimed more than 500 lives.

Heavy downpours in mountainous areas north of Rio de Janeiro caused rivers of mud tear through towns, levelling houses and throwing cars over buildings, the BBC reports.

Local media reports rescuers had to reach worst-hit areas on foot because vehicles cannot cross blocked roads.

Hundreds dead

Authorities say the worst affected towns were Nova Friburgo, which recorded 230 deaths, Teresopolis, with 227 deaths, and Petropolis, with 41 deaths.

Churches and police stations have been turned into makeshift morgues, which have been swamped by survivors desperate for news.

Many of the bodies were those of children, women and the elderly.

Poorer mountainous regions have been particularly heavily hit as rain causes mudslides to tear down the slopes. The authorities have urged people in vulnerable areas to evacuate.

Rain is expected to continue through next week, and officials say this could lay the conditions for more landslides, the ABC reports.

The head of the national weather institute, Luiz Cavalcanti, said light but continuous rain is very dangerous because there is nowhere for it to flow to, and it accumulates until the earth gives way under its weight.

Forecasters say the storms dumped the equivalent of a month's rain on the area in just a few hours.

They blamed the unusually wet weather on the La Nina phenomenon which has increased rainfall in south-east Brazil.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, at least 27 people have died and more than 325,000 have been displaced by floods and landslides.

With roads washed away, government workers and aid agencies are struggling to get supplies to about one million people