Death Toll Rising in Brazil Floods, Mudslides

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RIO DE JANEIRO - Torrential downpours in Brazil since Monday have caused widespread flooding and mudslides that have killed at least 95 people and injured upwards of 100 in and around Rio de Janeiro.

"We expect the death toll to rise," a fire department official helping to coordinate rescue efforts told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press. 

On Tuesday, 11 inches of rain fell on Rio, a record for a 24-hour period. Intermittent rain fell early Wednesday, with forecasters predicting it to continue through the weekend, though lighter.

Authorities said many of the victims lived in ramshackle structures on the hilly outskirts of the city's slums, where the heaviest rains in more than 30 years caused an estimated 180 mudslides.

Rescue workers, who are continuing to search for survivors, have transported at least 40 people to hospitals.

"The situation is critical," Mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters. "Roads are flooded and blocked. We recommend that people stay at home," Paes said.

School has been called off and most businesses remained closed on Wednesday.

The mayor estimated that 10,000 houses in the slums were still at risk. Tuesday's downpour left 1,200 people homeless.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on Brazilians to pray.

"This is the greatest flood in the history of Rio de Janeiro, the biggest amount of rain in a single day," Silva told the press in Rio.

"And when the man upstairs is nervous and makes it rain, we can only ask him to stop the rain in Rio de Janeiro so we can go on with life in the city," Silva said.

Lat January, 76 Brazilians died in floods and mudslides, with dozens perishing at a beach resort between Rio and the coastal city of Santos.


AP contributed to this report.

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