Page last updated at 23:24 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Flood deaths in Brazil rise to 84


Parts of Santa Catarina are accessible only by boat

Rescue efforts are being stepped up in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, where floods killed 84 people and forced 54,000 from their homes.

The federal government and other states are sending aid, including helicopters to reach stranded residents.

The heavy rainfall of recent days also caused landslides that have destroyed homes and blocked roads in the region.

Eight towns have been cut off by the flood waters while more than 160,000 people are without electricity.

Heavy rains have affected large parts of southern Brazil but Santa Catarina has borne the brunt of the bad weather.

A Civil Defense official, Robert Guimaraes, told AFP that "nearly 80% of the region is under water," though levels were dropping.

Eight towns have been completely cut off, while transport throughout the state has been paralysed with roads blocked by mud and water.

Emergency workers have been using helicopters and boats to try to reach those left stranded.

Civil defence officials said that, of the people known to have died, 13 were in the town of Blumenau, while another 15 deaths were reported in Ilhota. The death toll is expected to rise, officials said.

One rescued Ilhota resident told Globo TV that it was a "tsunami of clay, mud and trees".

Josiane Malmann, who was rescued by helicopter with about 200 people from Ihota, said: "Many people and children died ... The hills all fell in an avalanche."

Joinville floods
Joinville is one of the towns affected by the flooding

A state of emergency has been declared in Santa Catarina and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has offered federal help.

"Almost all the deaths were caused by landslides that left people buried in their own homes," said Santa Catarina Governor Luiz Henrique da Silveira.

In total more than a million people are said to have been affected by the flooding.

The floods have also caused part of a pipeline carrying natural gas from Bolivia to Brazil to be shut, cutting supplies to Santa Catarina and the neighbouring state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Map of Santa Catarina

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