Brazil rains kill more than 600 as epidemic feared

Rains that devastated a mountainous region north of Rio de Janeiro have killed at least 626 people, Brazil’s Civil Defense agency said on Sunday, as fears of more storms and disease outbreaks overshadowed rescue operations.

Nearly five days after rains sparked floods and massive landslides in one of Brazil’s worst natural disasters, the death toll continues to rise steadily as rescuers dig up corpses buried by rivers of mud and reach more remote areas.

TV images showed rescue workers looking for people under mounds of debris, a task made difficult by more rain since Saturday.

The government has made available 586 military personnel for rescue operations, 8,000 food baskets and 7 metric tons of medicine and other supplies, it said in a statement.

O Globo newspaper said the army has helped with the rescue of 110 families in isolated areas in Teresopolis, where 268 people have died, but people affected by the floods increasingly complain about what they see as a lack of government help in distributing basic goods and finding bodies.

While donations of food, water and clothing are pouring in from around the country, many people in remote areas lacked basic supplies.