Brazil in mourning as mudslide death toll keeps rising

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 8 (UPI) -- Brazil declared three days of mourning as the death toll from devastating floods, mudslides and stormy weather continued to rise Thursday ahead of key state events, including the BRIC summit and visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Storm floods and resulting landslides devastated large parts of the state of Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 113 people and leaving more than 100 with multiple injuries.


At least 1,410 people were made homeless by first estimates, officials said as rescue services continued to comb remote parts where devastation was widespread and dig through Rio's slum piles covered by mud.

The worst hit were Brazil's poor as the mudslides from hills in the state's urban centers sliced through shanty towns, burying many alive.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes reassured citizens the situation Tuesday night was "better than it was yesterday," when the storms struck.

"During the night, fortunately, there were no new landslides, but the risk still exists," he said. Officials said the death toll could rise further as dozens of the slum dwellers were reported missing by their families or friends.

Before the mudslides began Monday, in less than 24 hours, the rainfall in the region reached 288 millimeters, surpassing a 1966 record of 245 millimeters, Paes said, pointing out the volume was equal to at least two months of average rainfall.


At least 60 locations in different parts of the city were affected, drawing attention once again to Brazil's chronic poverty and the contrast between its wealthy citizens and its destitute illiterate millions.

Buoyed by a trade surplus Brazil has pushed forward its case for pre-eminence in Latin America and is seeking to secure a permanent U.N. Security Council seat on behalf of the continent.

Rio de Janeiro will be host to the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 and next week it will be in the spotlight as the second annual summit of Brazil, Russia, India and China gets under way in Brasilia.

The BRIC summit has been incorporated by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his plan to raise Brazil's international profile. China has already declared the upcoming summit between Lula da Silva and Hu as a major event.

Hu will attend the BRIC summit, then go on to Venezuela and Chile, scene of a magnitude 8.8 earthquake in February.

Analysts said the Lula administration was keen to ensure that current disruption in Rio de Janeiro caused by the landslide did not upset the hectic schedule for the BRIC summit and bilateral talks between Lula and Hu.


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