Brasilia: Raging floods in northeastern
Brazil have killed at least 41 people and left as many as
1,000 missing, officials said, while firefighters described
entire towns being wiped off the map.
Dramatic television pictures showed survivors scrambling
to rooftops to avoid being swept away, clinging desperately to
lines of rope as rescuers in helicopters rushed to pluck them
from the muddy floodwaters.
The death toll looked set to rise with more heavy rain
forecast for today and the authorities giving estimates of the
missing ranging from several hundred to 1,000.
"Up until the early afternoon we had 26 confirmed dead in
Alagoas and more than 1,000 people missing," the Governor of
the poor coastal state Teotonio Vilela Filho yesterday told
government news wire Agencia Brasil.
"But we are worried because bodies are starting to appear
on the beaches and the rivers."
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced yesterday
that he would be back to overfly the area tomorrow, as Defense
Minister Nelson Jobim has done, the official news agency
Agencia Brasil reported.
Officials later raised the toll in Alagoas to 29, while a
civil defense officials said another 12 fatalities were
confirmed in the larger neighbouring state of Pernambuco.
Almost 100,000 people in the two states were left without
a home or forced to evacuate, while some towns were completely
cut off as powerful torrents collapsed bridges and swamped
roads and railway lines, officials said.
Rooftops and church bell towers were the only structures
visible above massive brown expanses of floodwater that only
looked set to rise in the coming days.
Firefighters` spokesman told a news agency entire towns had been
"wiped off the map" after the Mundau river burst its banks in
the town of Uniao dos Palmares in Alagoas.
In the separate town of Palmares in the neighbouring
state of Pernambuco, a woman who lost her home sobbed as she
told Globonews television, "It destroyed our city. It
Jose Mariano, whose house in nearby Cachanga was
waterlogged, said, "It was really tough here. We had a
refrigerator and an armoire at my brother`s house for safe
keeping and the water came in and just kept rising."
Five Air Force helicopters ferried aid to those stranded
by the flooding, while a military plane also delivered some 14
tonnes of donated food, medicine, drinking water and
Lula held a crisis cabinet meeting that included
ministers and the governors of the affected states.