17 Jan 2011

Soldiers arrive to help Brazil flood rescue effort

5:56 am on 17 January 2011

Brazilian soldiers have arrived in one of the towns worst affected by deadly mudslides in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to assist with the rescue efforts.

Officials say at least 600 people are known to have died in the floods, the BBC reports.

Military help arrived in the mountain town of Teresopolis, where more than 250 people died when torrents of earth and water swept through like a tsunami, smashing houses and killing whole families as they slept.

Soldiers will also try to clear some of the blocked roads which have forced rescuers to reach some of the worst-hit areas on foot.

The tragedy has exposed major flaws in emergency planning and disaster prevention.

Emergency teams are still struggling to reach some areas and have had to dig through the rubble with their hands because vehicles and heavy equipment cannot get through.

Rescue workers fear the number of dead will continue to rise as they reach areas which have been without communication since the rains started at the beginning of the week.

Cemeteries in Teresopolis have been overwhelmed by the number of bodies and mortuary officials are using refrigerated trucks to hold dozens of unidentified bodies.

Steady rainfall has further hampered rescuers.

President Dilma Rousseff has declared three days of national mourning.

Authorities are urgently appealing for donations of blood, bottled water, food and medicine.