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600+ dead in Brazil flooding

Jan. 15, 2011 at 10:41 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Morgues in Brazil are filled beyond capacity with at least 600 people killed in flooding, made worse by ongoing persistent rain, officials said Saturday.

Emergency officials said many more people may have been killed and buried in mudslides in the mountainous area and their bodies not yet found.

In Nova Friburgo, officials buried unidentified bodies because of a lack of mortuary space, the BBC reported. The number of bodies in the Teresopolis area filled local morgues to capacity and bodies were being processed in police stations and churches. The military set up a tent field hospital to deal with the influx victims.

At least 5,000 people have been left homeless by the floods, the worst Brazil has seen since 1967, the British network said.

Rain that began early this week was forecast to continue for several more days, adding to the floodwaters that washed away entire villages, the report said.

Efforts to deal with the disaster have been hampered by washed-out roads, power outages and interruptions in telephone and Internet service, the BBC said. Amateur radio operators are proving invaluable in helping coordinate rescue efforts.

"Without their help, we couldn't have done anything in those first two days," Lt. Col. Roberto Robadey said.

The Brazilian air force said it was installing a communication center in Itaipava.

State governor Sergio Cabral proclaimed a seven-day mourning period for the victims.

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