Brazil storm death toll tops 500

16:52, January 14, 2011      

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Rescue workers carry a body of a victim who was buried in a mudslide in Nova Friburgo in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Jan. 13, 2011. (Xinhua/Agencia Estado)

The death toll in the storms that hit Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state this week has reached 444 as rescue workers continued to search for survivors in debris Thursday.

Local media quoted officials from Serrana region as saying that at least 506 people has died in the disaster, making it the worst natural catastrophe in the state's history.

The small town of Nova Friburgo was the worst hit, with 225 deaths. A total of 223 deaths were registered in the nearby Teresopolis, 39 in Petropolis and another 19 in the village of Sumidouro.

The death toll has surpassed the 437 fatalities in a 1967 mudslide disaster in the country.

With many neighborhoods and even entire municipalities losing external links due to blocked roads and mudslides, the death toll is still expected to rise significantly, said the authorities.

Some 13,000 people had to leave their homes and 6,000 of them were taken to makeshift shelters in schools and sports gyms. Several areas still do not have electricity, which makes it harder for firemen to carry out the rescue work at night. Water and telephone services have not been reestablished either.

Earlier on Thursday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Rio State Governor Sergio Cabral visited the devastated region. The president promised help to the affected towns.

Rousseff stressed that under the current circumstances, local, state and federal governments should make joint efforts for the reconstruction.

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