Firefighters using heavy machinery, shovels and bare hands dug for survivors today but only found bodies under a mountain of red earth and crushed lodgings - the worst of a spate of mudslides and floods which have killed at least 64 people in south-eastern Brazil.
At least 26 people died in the New Year’s Day slide which buried a resort on the island of Ilha Grande, including the 18-year-old daughter of the couple who built the waterfront lodge at the foot of a cliffside covered with rainforest.
Officials said no foreigners were known to be among the dead and there were few details about those who died.
A torrent of mud tore a 1,000ft scar down the hill, pushing parts of the Pousada Sankay and three neighbouring houses into the sea shortly after guests had retired to their rooms following New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Minutes earlier on the mainland, a torrent of reddish mud cascaded into the Carioca slum in the nearby coastal city of Angra dos Reis, killing at least 13 people and reducing rickety shacks to rubble.
The dual mudslides early on New Year’s Day were triggered by 10in (27cm) of rain which had drenched the region since Wednesday.
“We came to celebrate the New Year and then all this sadness happened,” Fernanda de Oliveira, a witness to the mudslide on Ilha Grande, told the O Globo newspaper.
Ms Oliveira was staying in a house beside the Pousada Sankay when she heard a rumble in the middle of the night.
“We couldn’t see what was happening. It was raining hard and the water was leaking into our house,” she told the newspaper.
“Suddenly, we saw people in the sea and we went down to rescue them. They were people staying in the pousada.”
The lodge owners’ daughter, Yumi Faraci, was apparently staying with friends she had invited for the holiday. Her parents, who were in another part of the building, survived, the woman’s uncle, Antonio Faraci, told the G1 news website.
Nearly 80 other mudslides have been reported throughout the region in recent days. Together with flooding, they have killed at least 64 people – 39 on Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis and another 22 in other parts of Rio de Janeiro state. Among the dead are toddlers and teenagers, a pregnant woman and many older people, officials said.
Firefighters in Minas Gerais state said three elderly people died when a mudslide hit their home, the state-run Agencia Estado reported.
Another six people – all from the same family – were missing after a mudslide hit their house in the town of Cunha in Sao Paulo state, the Civil Defence there said.
Morgue authorities in Rio de Janeiro – where many bodies were being flown for identification – and Civil Defence authorities in Angra dos Reis have said all the identified victims were Brazilian. But they also said the death toll might double because many people remain missing.
In Angra dos Reis, 12 bodies from the two deadly mudslides were laid out in coffins in a school gymnasium for family and friends to visit.
The rain stopped today, allowing searchers to intensify their efforts. But the muddy conditions and the hopes that survivors may still be buried under the mud meant efforts had to be carried out mostly by hand.