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Staggering Brazil flood damage mounts

Aerial view of a farm severely hit by landslides in a remote area, one of the many seriously affected by recent landslides, in the vicinity of Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, on January 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 montainous region near Rio January 12 stood at 759. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Sao Paulo (AFP) Jan 24, 2011
More than a week of heavy rain in Brazil's southern Santa Catarina state has killed five people and left more than 23,000 people homeless, in addition to the deadly flooding disaster near Rio de Janeiro, officials said Monday.

"Rains have been particularly heavy in (the town of) Jaragua do Sul, where more than 16,000 homes were seriously damaged. As of Monday, there are five confirmed fatalities," said a spokesman for Santa Catarina civil defense.

In the Santa Catarina state capital, the university and resort town of Florianopolis, some 2,600 people had to leave homes seriously damaged in the floods.

State-wide in Santa Catarina, there were 33 cities with states of emergency declared, officials said.

Meanwhile, flooding and mudslides sparked by more than a week of heavy rains in the mountain range inland from Rio de Janeiro have claimed a staggering 812 lives, civil defense officials said Monday.

In addition, some 6,000 people lost their homes or had to abandon them amid fears of likely collapses, officials said.

The full extent of the Rio state disaster, reported to be the worst natural catastrophe in Brazil's history, is not yet entirely known, with many people still in areas cut off from land access receiving help from helicopter crews.

earlier related report
2010 'one of worst' years for disasters: UN
Geneva (AFP) Jan 24, 2011 - 2010 was one of the worst years on record for natural disasters over the past two decades, leaving nearly 297,000 people dead, research for the United Nations showed on Monday.

The devastating earthquake in Haiti a year ago accounted for about two thirds of the toll, killing more than 222,500 people, according to the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

The CRED found that the summer heatwave in Russia was the second deadliest disaster of the year, leaving 55,736 people dead according to figures it compiled from insurers and media reports of official sources.

The year was "one of the worst in decades in terms of the number of people killed and in terms of economic losses," Margareta Wahlstroem, UN special representative for disaster risk reduction, told journalists.

"These figures are bad, but could be seen as benign in years to come," she said, pointing to the impact of unplanned growth of urban areas, environmental degradation and climate change.

The economic cost of the 373 major disasters recorded in 2010 reached 109 billion dollars, headed by an estimated 30 billion dollars in damage caused by the powerful earthquake that struck Chile in February.

The earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swept away villages and claimed most of the 521 dead.

Summer floods and landslides in China caused an estimated 18 billion dollars in damage, while floods in Pakistan cost 9.5 billion dollars, according to the CRED's annual study.

Although impoverished Haiti is still struggling to recover from the quake that devastated much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, it ranked lower down the global economic scale with an estimated eight billion dollars in losses.

Asians accounted for 89 percent of the 207 million people affected by disasters worldwide last year, the CRED said.




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'Amazing' Australian floodwaters enter new towns
Melbourne (AFP) Jan 24, 2011
Surging floodwaters broke levees in disaster-hit Australia on Monday to inundate more properties in the southeast, as residents sandbagged homes against the spiralling crisis. Swollen rivers in the southeastern state of Victoria have created a flood zone measuring an estimated 90 kilometres (56 miles) long and 40 kilometres wide, the State Emergency Service said. "This area has seen unpr ... read more

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