14 Jan 2011

At least 500 killed in Brazil floods

9:33 pm on 14 January 2011

At least 500 people are now known to have died in floods in south-eastern Brazil, the country's worst natural disaster for several decades.

Heavy rain has brought massive mudslides down on several towns, where thousands have been made homeless, the BBC reports.

The death toll has now surpassed the number killed in mudslides in Caraguatatuba in Sao Paulo state in 1967, in which up to 430 people died.

Police say the death toll is likely to rise. Rescue workers will resume searching for survivors in the mountainous Serrana region, north of Rio de Janeiro, on Friday.

Many spent Thursday scrabbling with their bare hands through debris.

In the Campo Grande area of Teresopolis, which was earlier cut off, rescuers found people pulling bodies from the mud.

The Brazilian armed forces have brought in a field hospital and hundreds of people have taken refuge in the gymnasium in Teresopolis.

The number of injured is threatening to overwhelm the medical services.

Morgues in affected towns were full, with churches and police stations receiving bodies.

Earlier this week, torrential rains in neighbouring Sao Paulo state left 13 people dead and brought traffic chaos to Brazil's biggest city.