Death toll in Brazil floods rises to 84 (Lead)

November 26th, 2008 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Rio de Janeiro, Nov 26 (IANS) Eighty-four people have died and more than 50,000 have been forced out from their homes following days of downpour, blamed on environmental degradation, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, EFE reported Wednesday.Mudslides and flooding caused by the storms have blocked almost all highways in the region and have cut off water and electricity to thousands of homes.

Close to 1.5 million inhabitants had been affected by the rains, which prompted the state government to declare a state of emergency.

The storms broke a stretch of pipeline that carries Bolivian natural gas to southern Brazil and forced the Brazilian oil company Petrobras to suspend the fuel supply to part of Santa Catarina and to all of the neighbouring Rio Grande do Sul state.

Eight municipalities of Santa Catarina have been cut off from the rest of the country by the floods and mudslides on the highways, forcing authorities to airlift essential supplies and emergency medicines.

“This is the worst weather tragedy in the history of Santa Catarina,” Gov. Luiz Henrique da Silveira said.

In worst hit Blumenau city, where at least 15 people have died, close to 500 army troops mounted relief and rescue operation.

Some cities have reported looting of supermarkets and pharmacies by hungry and desperate flood victims.

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