At least 370 dead and 1,000 missing in Brazilian floods
Published 14/01/2011 | 05:00
More than 370 people have died and up to a thousand more are feared to have perished as a result of floods and mudslides in Brazil.
Three towns in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro were devastated after up to 10 inches of rain, the equivalent of a month's rainfall, fell in 24 hours.
Witnesses reported seeing cars, animals and human corpses carried away by torrents of water. Survivors in the towns of Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis clawed desperately at the mud with their hands in a search for signs of life after the mudslides struck at 3am on Wednesday.
"We were like zombies, covered in mud, in the dark, digging and digging," said Geisa Carvalho (19) of Teresopolis.
"The recovery of bodies doesn't seem to end," said Ricardo Figueiredo (52) from the same area. "If you walk through the streets you see only expressions of desperation, stretchers passing by."
In Nova Friburgo, where there were 168 confirmed deaths, a six-month-old boy was rescued alive with his father, who had cradled the child for 12 hours while buried under debris.
But there were few other tales of relief as the death toll continued to mount, with 378 people confirmed dead across Rio de Janiero state. There were fears that hundreds more bodies could be discovered, with some areas cut off from search and rescue workers.
The towns affected are popular retreats for wealthy Brazilian city residents in search of greenery and cleaner air. But the scale of the rebuilding task will be daunting after houses, shops, roads and power lines were destroyed.
"The city is finished," said Carlos Damasio, a resident of Nova Friburgo. (© Daily Telegraph, London)