Brazil flood death toll could top 1,000: official count

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.