Brazil flood, mudslide death toll rises to 68

Tuesday, November 25th 2008, 11:17 am
By: News 9


Associated Press Writer

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Rescue workers desperately digging through the wreckage of homes engulfed by mudslides found more bodies on Tuesday in southern Brazil, raising the death toll from rain-spawned floods and hillside collapses to 68.

At least 17 people were still missing in small cities and towns across Santa Catarina state, where torrential weekend rains far surpassed records going back to 1961.

Most of the dead were killed in mudslides that swept away homes and businesses, and at least 52,000 were displaced, civil defense officials said in a statement.

Eight cities remained isolated and were running short of everything from drinking water to fuel because of the rains that caused rivers to overflow their banks.

A pipeline rupture cut off the state's sole source of natural gas from Bolivia, prompting shortages of cooking gas and fuel for cars.

Six large textile mills also shut down because they had no natural gas to generate electricity, Brazil's Valor Economico business newspaper reported.

Seventeen highways are blocked by mudslides, and officials said it could take days to reopen several that were heaped high with earth and trees from entire hillsides that broke away and crashed in muddy heaps atop the pavement.

The death toll was most severe in the town of Ilhota along the banks of the Itajai River, where 15 people died after waters rose 9 meters (30 feet) above normal.

Also hard hit was the city of Blumenau, where 13 people died when they were buried by mudslides. Another 15 people suffered serious injuries, according to the civil defense statement.

More than 150,000 people in the city of nearly 300,000 had no electricity. Blumenau is a renowned tourist destination founded by German immigrants and is known for its Oktoberfest celebration.

Rain was still falling in Blumenau on Tuesday, and forecasters said it would probably continue until Wednesday.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)