Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
The number of people killed in a flooding disaster near Rio de Janeiro last week could top 1,000, according to official figures released Friday showing 400 people still missing.
The latest confirmed toll of recovered bodies from the flash floods and mudslides that struck the Serrana mountain region near Rio January 12 stood at 759.
The worst-hit towns in the Serrana region were Nova Friburgo, with 365 dead, and Teresopolis, 308 dead.
Most of the 401 people listed as missing by Rio's state government were presumed dead, as emergency workers and soldiers continued to dig through mud and debris looking for more bodies.
As bodies were found, they were being identified, struck off the missing list and added to the death toll.
Some of those designated missing by friends or relatives were also found to be alive.
A total 13,830 people were forced to abandon their homes in the region, either because they were destroyed or deemed unsafe, according to Rio's health service. They were being put in relatives' places or in shelters.
Nova Friburgo officials told AFP Friday they were starting a local census to distribute emergency cash to thousands of people in need.
The aftermath of the disaster, reported to be the worst natural catastrophe in Brazil's history, was not over, with many people still in areas cut off from land access receiving help from helicopter crews.
earlier related report
"The number of fatalities currently recorded nationally have sadly increased to 70... The number of displaced and affected households reported at 8400," cooperative governance spokesman Vuyelwa Qinga said in a statement.
She added that, after consultations with various experts, the government had decided to establish national disaster joint operations to "improve coordination of government interventions and streamline communication in relation to the disasters."
Displaced families are currently living in community halls or tents and are receiving food parcels.
Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka said the flood damage was estimated at 356 million rands (51 million dollars, 32 million euros) so far with reports from some provinces yet to come in.
In Mozambique 10 people have died as a result of floods, with more than 10,000 others evacuated from their homes.
Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have also been affected by the heavy rains. Though there have been no reports yet of major incidents in those countries, people in low-lying areas have been warned to leave their homes.
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