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Search for survivors as mudslide kills 50

THE death toll in Brazil from three days of heavy rain that triggered scores of mudslides reached 50, prompting President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to interrupt his holiday for a national emergency meeting.

A hillside collapsed on three houses and an upmarket waterfront resort on an island resort at Angra dos Reis near Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 19 people, authorities said. Another mudslide killed 11.

The severe weather led President Lula da Silva to call an emergency meeting of civil defence authorities.

Rescuers fear the number of victims from the mudslides could rise as a frantic search for survivors continues.

Two key roads linking Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo were damaged and temporarily shut because of rain.

Police helicopters and navy vessels were helping in the rescue efforts as more rain is forecast. Authorities in Angra dos Reis said nearly 80 mudslides were reported throughout the region, toppling trees and destroying power lines.

"People had never seen so much rain in this region," said Rio de Janeiro's vice governor, Luiz Fernando Pezao.

Mr Pezao feared the death toll could rise. "We'll have to wait for the rescue efforts, but we'll likely encounter a very sad outcome."

Fire department commander Pedro Machado said the mudslide at the Pousada Sankay island resort, which killed at least 17 people, happened after tourists had returned to their rooms following the New Year's celebration at the lodge on Ilha Grande, a 90-minute ferry ride from Angra dos Reis on the mainland.

The hotel, which charges about US$200 (e140) a night and can accommodate 50 guests, was reportedly full.