65 killed in Brazil rains, floods (Lead)

November 25th, 2008 - 6:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Rio de Janeiro, Nov 25 (RIA Novosti) At least 65 people have been killed and some 44,000 left homeless in southern Brazil after more than two months of heavy rains, the civil defence department said Tuesday. Eight towns in Santa Catarina state have been cut off as roads were flooded in the unusually intense rains blamed on global climate change. Many of those killed were crushed by landslides, some of them inside their homes, the department said.

The region recorded more than 50 cm of rain in the past few days, four times more than the average for this time of year.

Over 160,000 people have been left without electricity. Natural gas supplies were cut off in the south of the state after a pipeline was damaged by rains. In total, 1.5 million are said to have been affected by the floods and landslides.

A state of emergency has been declared in the region, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has pledged urgent federal assistance.

Brazilian meteorologists have warned that the rain is likely to continue the whole of this week. Schools in the state have been closed.

Governor Luiz Henrique da Silveira described situation as “a climatic crisis that requires everyone to come together.”

Civil defence official Marcio Luiz Alves said most of the deaths were caused by landslides, and many areas affected by landslides were still cut off from the rest of the country.

“We are using sniffer dogs, but the number of victims is likely to increase as we gain access to those places,” he said.

Rescue teams were using helicopters and motor boats to reach the isolated areas, and the Brazilian air force is using two transport planes to airlift supplies.

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