Page last updated at 22:20 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 23:20 UK

Brazil begins recovery after Rio de Janeiro floods


Heavy rain is a recipe for tragedy for hillside homes

Rescuers are searching for survivors in the Rio de Janiero area of Brazil after landslides and floods left at least 110 people dead.

Officials said the toll could rise as many people are missing in the wake of the heaviest downpours in four decades.

The mayor of Rio has urged people in high-risk areas to evacuate their homes as officials warned that 10,000 houses remained at risk from landslides.

Forecasters say the rain will continue, but with less intensity than before.

"The city is starting to return to normal, but the rains are still intense," Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters early on Wednesday.

He said 4,000 families had been made homeless and that 10,000 houses remained at risk, mostly in the slums where about a fifth of Rio's people live.

Aid packages

All the major streets are closed because of the floods... Each and every person who attempts to enter them will be at enormous risk
Eduardo Paes
Rio de Janeiro Mayor

Most of those who died over the past two days were people who lived in favelas (shanty towns), where many houses were buried under mudslides.

The authorities on Wednesday raised the death toll to at least 110 people.

They said at least 43 were killed in Rio de Janeiro city after 28cm (11in) of rain fell in 24 hours, but the neighbouring city of Niteroi was the hardest hit, with 60 deaths.

Health workers will distribute 70,000 aid packages to the victims of the floods, which have caused widespread devastation in the state of Rio de Janeiro, officials said.

Matt Taylor explains the weather behind the flooding in Rio de Janeiro

The kits will contain food, clothes and medical supplies for those left homeless or cut off from the outside world because of flooding and mudslides.

The Brazilian government has also announced an emergency programme to re-build homes for families who lost their houses.

Mayor Paes said road conditions had improved, but he urged people not to travel.

"All the major streets of the city are closed because of the floods," said Mr Paes. "Each and every person who attempts to enter them will be at enormous risk."

The flooding disrupted most international flights in and out of Rio's main airport and forced the cancellation of many domestic services.

All schools and many businesses were closed on Wednesday, but several government offices have re-opened.

Rains easing

Brazil's national weather service, Inmet, said Tuesday's rainfall was the heaviest in 48 years.

Paulo Cabral
Paulo Cabral
BBC News, Rio de Janeiro

The rain is not so intense but the risk of new landslides remains high, as the soil of the hillsides is extremely wet. Most of those who died were people in the hillside slums where waves of mud came down destroying everything in their way.

The topography in Rio exacerbates these types of problems. It's one of the most beautiful cities in the world because of the mountains in the middle of the town, but it can get nasty when it rains.

Ten years ago a census found 12,000 people lived in high-risk areas, but there have been new developments since then so the number is probably much higher.

Weather forecasters are predicting that the rain will continue for the next few days, but with less intensity than that seen in the past 48 hours, the BBC's Paulo Cabral reports from Brazil's second-largest city.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was visiting the city on Tuesday, said little could be done until the rain let up.

"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.

A period of three days official mourning has been declared by the governor of Rio de Janeiro state and a state of emergency has been declared in the region.

The area has experienced a particularly hot and rainy summer this year, and meteorologists have forecast more rain in the coming days. However, correspondents say heavy rain is more common in January than in April.

In January, at least 39 people were killed by mudslides in the resort area of Angra dos Reis, half way between Rio de Janeiro and Santos.

satellite map of Rio de Janeiro

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