Rescue teams and local volunteers are still searching for the missing.

Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, toured the disaster area, and promised more government help.

Volunteers and troops were scrambling to distribute medicine, food, water and clothes to people in a region where power outages contributed to a lack of clean water and fresh food.

Disaster zone

The government-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal announced it would provide 1.5bn reals ($652bn) in loans for people and businesses in the disaster zone so they can buy goods like construction materials and appliances.

Nearby states are also sending relief supplies for the homeless in Santa Catarina.

Nearly 80,000 people have been displaced, half of them in the once booming port city of Itajai.

As looters raided Itajai's biggest supermarket, police stood by, saying that they were ordered to let residents take food and water from stores.

Evacuation urged

But officials warn that there is a danger of more deadly mudslides and are urging people in risk-prone areas to evacuate their homes and seek shelter elsewhere.

After surveying large areas hit by the mudslides, experts at Sao Paulo's Technological Research Institute said tragedy could strike again because the earth is still saturated with water.

"The stabilisation of the soil is extremely precarious and if there is more rain, then there could be more mudslides," the institute's Luiz Antonio Gomes was quoted as saying in the Santa Catarina government's website.