Brazil flood death touches 640

Death toll from devastating floods & landslides in Brazil rose to 640.

Petropolis: The death toll from
devastating floods and landslides in Brazil rose on Monday to 640,
as the military stepped up efforts to reach isolated
communities near Rio.

The disaster -- the worst of its type in Brazil`s history
-- was now mobilising more than 1,500 emergency personnel,
including from the army, air force, and police and fire

Fears of disease spreading have added urgency to the
search for decomposing bodies, and officials have told the
local population to not use run-off water for drinking.

Rio de Janeiro state today began seven days of mourning
for the victims, adding to a three-day national mourning
period declared by President Dilma Rousseff.

The toll looked certain to rise further as roads were
cleared to finally allow bulldozers to reach mud-slimed debris
in remote hamlets six days after sliding earth swallowed them

Some 120 people are missing, presumed dead, according to
the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, citing state and local

Military and police helicopters were being used to access
cut-off areas, after days of rain that had kept them grounded
because of limited visibility.

Mayors from the hardest-hit towns of Nova Friburgo,
Teresopolis and Petropolis were to meet to discuss how their
region, heavily dependent on tourism, can survive, the
GloboNews channel reported.

The mudslides that struck the Serrana mountain region
just north of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday last week were
caused by rains dumping the equivalent of a month`s
precipitation in just a few hours.

Destruction was exacerbated by houses illegally built on
deforested hillsides -- a situation Rousseff and state
officials have blamed on decades of weak municipal oversight
in the area.

The disaster was the first big challenge in Rousseff`s
mandate, who took over from Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on
January 1.