Teresopolis (Brazil), Jan 13 (AFP) Rescuers searchedthrough layers of mud today for survivors and bodies afterfreakishly heavy rains caused landslides to slice throughthree towns near Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 378 people.
The calamity that devastated the mountain towns ofTeresopolis, Petropolis and Novo Friburgo was seen as Brazil''sworst natural disaster in 43 years.
President Dilma Rousseff was to fly over the zonetoday. Her government has released USD 470 million in initialemergency 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 remotehamlets.
Destroyed roads and bridges meant that access in manycases was possible only with one of seven helicopters deployedto help rescue efforts. Telephones and power systems hadcollapsed in several locations.
The catastrophe struck before dawn yesterday, asfamilies were asleep in their homes.
"One woman tried to save her children but hertwo-month-old baby was carried away by a torrent like a doll,"sobbed Angela, a 55-year-old resident of Teresopolis who sawthe destruction unfold around her.
Heavy tropical rains are common at this time of yearin southeastern Brazil. But they were suddenly intensified bya cold front, bringing weeks'' worth of water crashing down ina matter of hours. (AFP)