27 people confirmed dead in Brazilian mudslides

RESCUE workers sifted through tons of thick brown mud and rubble yesterday with little hope of finding survivors of mudslides that left 27 confirmed dead and more feared buried in the central state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Torrential rains swept through the state early on Thursday, leaving 70 people injured and more than 7,000 unable to return to their homes, according to the civil defence unit.

So far, 2,426 homes have been destroyed in the mudslides, many built precariously in hillside shantytowns. Dozens more were at risk of collapsing as heavy rains continued across the area, authorities said.

The worst damage was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, where 15 people were killed. Several other deaths were reported in four small towns in the surrounding area.

Early yesterday, a 10-year-old boy died in a Belo Horizonte hospital following his rescue the previous evening after spending 15 hours buried in mud. Eight other members of the boy's family also died in the disaster.

In the small town of Manhuacu, a rescue worker drowned when his boat capsized. Mudslides also washed over two highways and two buildings in the city of Caratinga collapsed under the heavy rains.

Vice President Jose Alencar, a Minas Gerais native, visited the state on Thursday evening to assess the damage. The federal government said it was studying whether to disburse relief funds to the state.

Summer flash flooding is common in Brazil and the mudslides that sometimes follow wreak havoc in hillside shantytowns. This past weekend, 16 people died in Rio de Janeiro state and 52 people died in December after especially hard rains.

Torrential rains swept through the state early on Thursday, leaving 70 people injured and more than 7,000 unable to return to their homes, according to the civil defence unit.

So far, 2,426 homes have been destroyed in the mudslides, many built precariously in hillside shantytowns. Dozens more were at risk of collapsing as heavy rains continued across the area, authorities said.

The worst damage was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, where 15 people were killed. Several other deaths were reported in four small towns in the surrounding area.

Early yesterday, a 10-year-old boy died in a Belo Horizonte hospital following his rescue the previous evening after spending 15 hours buried in mud. Eight other members of the boy's family also died in the disaster.

In the small town of Manhuacu, a rescue worker drowned when his boat capsized. Mudslides also washed over two highways and two buildings in the city of Caratinga collapsed under the heavy rains.

Vice President Jose Alencar, a Minas Gerais native, visited the state on Thursday evening to assess the damage. The federal government said it was studying whether to disburse relief funds to the state.

Summer flash flooding is common in Brazil and the mudslides that sometimes follow wreak havoc in hillside shantytowns. This past weekend, 16 people died in Rio de Janeiro state and 52 people died in December after especially hard rains.

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