Rescuers search through Brazil mudslides, 378 killed

Water swept away homes of Rio de Janeiro, wiping out families and killing at least 378 people.

Updated: Jan 14, 2011, 00:17 AM IST

Teresopolis: Rescuers searched
through layers of mud today for survivors and bodies after
freakishly heavy rains caused landslides to slice through
three towns near Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 378 people.

The calamity that devastated the mountain towns of
Teresopolis, Petropolis and Novo Friburgo was seen as Brazil`s
worst natural disaster in 43 years.

President Dilma Rousseff was to fly over the zone
today. Her government has released USD 470 million in initial
emergency aid and sent seven tons of medical supplies.

The death toll from the area, known as the Serrana,
has risen progressively as rescuers spread out into remote

Destroyed roads and bridges meant that access in many
cases was possible only with one of seven helicopters deployed
to help rescue efforts. Telephones and power systems had
collapsed in several locations.

The catastrophe struck before dawn yesterday, as
families were asleep in their homes.

"One woman tried to save her children but her
two-month-old baby was carried away by a torrent like a doll,"
sobbed Angela, a 55-year-old resident of Teresopolis who saw
the destruction unfold around her.

Heavy tropical rains are common at this time of year
in southeastern Brazil. But they were suddenly intensified by
a cold front, bringing weeks` worth of water crashing down in
a matter of hours.