Rio de Janeiro: The number of deaths from mudslides in Rio de Janeiro state has climbed to 223, even as emergency workers continued to search for more bodies buried under mud and rocks.
Four bodies were found on Saturday under piles of earth and rubbish that rolled down the hillside and destroyed some 50 houses in Morro do Bumba town. The latest fatalities brought to 31 the number of confirmed deaths in that area, which is particularly unstable because it was built on top of an old garbage dump, officials said.
Dozens of mudslides have hit hillsides in the Rio metropolitan area since Monday, when the torrential rains that triggered the natural disasters began.
Based on estimates by firefighters, authorities said 100-150 bodies could still be buried under tonnes of earth, while rescue workers were battling nausea stemming from their exposure to the methane gas being given off by decomposing garbage.
The intermittent downpour in the region, meanwhile, gave way to a warm sun on Saturday which facilitated the work of the rescue teams.
According to firefighters, of the 223 deaths from mudslides over the past five days, 140 have occurred in Niteroi, 63 in Rio de Janeiro, 16 in Sao Gonzalo and the other four in Petropolis, Nilopolis, Paracambi and Mage cities.
The situation is "calamitous" and more than 200 families will be immediately relocated because of the danger of another deadly mudslide, Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral said on Saturday.
Over 50,000 people have been affected by the torrential rains, flooding and mudslides throughout Rio de Janeiro state.