Page last updated at 03:31 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Flood death toll in Brazil rises

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

People in flood waters of the Itajay river in Santa Catarina, Brazil
The Itajai river valley was badly hit

The number of deaths following flooding and landslides in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina has risen to 97, with 19 people missing.

Almost 80,000 people have had to move from their homes.

Six cities in the region remain cut off and the authorities say blocked roads have made it difficult to distribute aid in many areas.

Landslides have been blamed for most of the deaths, and many homes were either swept away or suffered severe damage.

With water starting to recede in some areas the level of destruction has become even more apparent.

Almost 80,000 people have had to stay with either friends or relatives or in public shelters, although some families left one person behind in order to stop looting.

Looting fears

In the coastal city of Itajai the police were at one stage reported to be letting people take food and water from stores, as in the words of one official they were being driven by despair to steal.

The authorities are now said to be restricting movements during the hours of darkness in areas of the city affected by flooding, in order to protect businesses and homes.

Hundreds of military police are to provide reinforcements for local officials.

Many towns and cities have had to be declared disaster zones, and the government has pledged over $1bn to Santa Catarina and other Brazilian states affected by the flooding.

With many roads still blocked, helicopters are being used to deliver aid, and trucks carrying natural gas are to be sent to the area after a pipeline from Bolivia was damaged.

The health ministry says tonnes of medical supplies and other materials will be delivered to local hospitals, and doctors have been appealing for blood donations.

More than 1.5 million people are said to have been affected in one way or another by flooding or landslides, and it is clear that the authorities in Santa Catarina are still facing a major challenge.

Map of Santa Catarina

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