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Brazil mourns as flood toll tops 600

January 17, 2011

BRAZIL has declared three days of mourning for at least 610 people killed near Rio de Janeiro in the country’s worst flood disaster.

Emergency workers in the disaster zone, in the Serrana region just north of Rio, were overwhelmed by the body count. Refrigerator trucks were brought in to store corpses.

Workers transporting bodies said they feared the death toll from last Wednesday’s floods and mudslides could top 1000 as rescuers reached outlying hamlets.

An estimated 14,000 people were assisted by rescue workers or lost their homes in the Serrana area towns hardest hit about 100 kilometres from coastal Rio, civil defence figures showed.

The hardest-hit town was Nova Friburgo, where 274 people were killed. Nearby Teresopolis had 263 dead, 55 were killed in Petropolis and 18 lost their lives in Sumidouro, officials said.

Workers transporting bodies said they feared the death toll could more than double. President Dilma Rousseff declared three days of mourning, government news agency Agencia Brasil reported. Rio de Janeiro state authorities said their state would observe a week of mourning. ”I think in the end we’ll see more than 1000 bodies,” a funeral worker said.

Authorities made an urgent appeal for blood, bottled water, food and medicine.

At least four refrigerated trucks were outside an overflowing makeshift morgue inside a church in Teresopolis.

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