Brazil Mudslides, Floods Kill 379 In Rio, Sao Paulo

Brazilian firefighters and police stepped up rescue efforts after the heaviest rainfall in 44 years caused mudslides and floods that swept away houses, killed at least 379 people and left 4,600 homeless in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states. Entire villages were flooded and hillside neighborhoods collapsed in the mountainous cities of Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis, about 40 miles north of Rio. At least 356 people died and about 2,700 lost houses in the area, Rio state Governor Sergio Cabral said. In Sao Paulo state, floods killed 23 people, about 1,900 lost their homes, the state’s civil defense department said. “It was an ominous combination of irregular housing, in many cases, and nature’s fury,” Cabral said in a radio interview to CBN today. President Dilma Rousseff authorized 700 million reais ($418 million) in aid to fund relief and rescue efforts. Rousseff plans to fly over the area today to assess the damage, according to her office. Labor Minister Carlos Lupi said his ministry will allow victims to use part of their government-run severance and disability fund, known as FGTS, to rebuild their homes or relocate. Heavy rainfall will likely continue in the region in the next four days as a cold front hovers above the mountains north of Rio, Celso Oliveira, a meteorologist at Somar Meteorologia said today in a telephone interview from Sao Paulo. More Rain ""A cold front is stationed right above the mountain region,"" Oliveira said. ""People have to be prepared, because we should expect heavy rains for the next few days."" The region has received the biggest amount of rainfall since 1967, according to the government’s Inmet meteorology agency. Nova Friburgo, a city founded by German immigrants that became a textile industry hub, will need to be entirely rebuilt, Cabral said. At least 168 died in the town, according to the state’s health and civil defense department. Deaths in the town of Teresopolis, a fruit producing regi