Rescuers hunt Brazil flood victims
Heaviest rains in 50 years trigger floods and mudslides leaving at least 145 dead.
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2010 16:45 GMT
At least 145 people have been killed, mostly by landslides swept through slum areas [AFP]

Rescue workers in Brazil are searching for more than 200 trapped and missing people after the city of Rio de Janeiro and its surroundings were hit by the heaviest rains seen in half a century.

The torrential rains brought widespread flooding region and triggered several landslides, killing at least 145 people and leaving more than 3,200 homeless.

Late on Wednesday reports emerged of another massive landslide in the neighbouring city of Niteroi, with 200 people buried, Pedro Machado, a local fire chief, said.

Most of the deaths were caused by landslides that cut through slums built precariously on steep slopes around Rio, leaving red-brown trails of destruction.

At the site of one landslide firemen covered in mud struggled for hours to rescue an eight-year-old boy who had called for help from the rubble of a collapsed house in a hillside slum, only to find that the child had died by the time they reached him.

"I promised his father I would get the boy out alive but I couldn't," Luis Carlos dos Santos a firefighter, told Reuters news agency.

Rescue authorities said a total of 133 people were confirmed dead in Rio state, while 135 were injured and 53 were missing.

Emergency operations

According to local authorities, at least 10,000 houses are still at risk of collapse and the national government has sent security forces to help with rescue operations.

The search is on for 200 people trapped after floods and landslides in Rio de Janierio.

Edward Paes, the mayor of Rio, has appealed to the federal government for $208m in aid for emergency operations.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, criticised decades of administrative neglect which allowed shoddy home construction in high-risk zones of the city's slums.

"All we can do is pray to God to hold back the rains a little, so that Rio can return to normal, and so that we can set about fixing the things in the city that need fixing," he told local radio on Tuesday.

Brazil had already seen deadly deluges in the city of Sao Paulo earlier this year after the wettest summer in the region in more than six decades.

The latest flooding and transportation chaos has also renewed concerns over Rio de Janeiro's poor infrastructure as it prepares to host the football world cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

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