Death toll mounts from Brazil downpours as search continues


Torrential rains in northeastern Brazil have left at least 79 people dead and dozens missing, civil defense officials said Sunday, as rescuers capitalized on a lull in downpours to search for survivors.

“As of 6:00 pm (2100 GMT) this Sunday, the number of people killed as a result of the rains has reached 79,” the civil defense authority of Pernambuco state, where the affected communities of Recife and Olinda are located, said in a statement. The disaster is the latest in a recent series of deadly landslides and floods triggered by extreme weather in Brazil.

The number of dead has mounted steadily over the weekend, including dozens in landslides, as heavy rains caused rivers to overflow and torrents of mud swept away everything in their path. The latest statement from the civil defense did not offer an update on the number of people missing, though the agency had earlier reported 56 people still unaccounted for and nearly 4,000 who had lost their homes.

“We still don’t have an exact number, but there are still reports of victims… who have not been found,” Pernambuco Governor Paulo Camara said during a press conference. “The search will continue until we can identify all the missing people,” he said.

Authorities warned that rain was forecast to continue Monday, but in the meantime while the storm subsided some 1,200 personnel — some in boats or helicopters — resumed search and rescue work, state officials said. —AFP