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Brazil landslides: Dozens missing, feared buried in mud

The number of people killed in landslides which hit coastal towns in Brazil’s São Paulo state over the weekend has risen to 44.

More than 40 others are still missing.

Locals have joined forces with rescue workers to search the mud for survivors.

More than 750 people lost their homes as torrents of earth and rock came loose from hillsides after a record amount of rain fell in the coastal area east of São Paulo.

Meteorologists said more than 680mm (26 inches) of rain came down in the municipality of Bertioga in the space of only 24 hours.

But it was the town of São Sebastião, 80km (50 miles) to the north of Bertioga, where all but one of the deaths occurred.

Among the victims are many children. One girl died when a boulder weighing two tonnes crashed into her home.

Another woman was hit by a falling tree. Most of the others were buried in the mud that careened down the hillside.

Meteorologist Marcelo Seluchi told BBC News Brasil a cold front with a combination of very specific characteristics had caused an “extreme and historic” weather event – not just heavy rains, but also high swells which made it hard for any of the rainfall to drain away.

Many of the make-shift homes built on steep hillsides could not withstand the force of the water that came rushing down.

More than nine million people in Brazil are estimated to be living in areas prone to mudslides or flooding.

With more heavy rain forecast for the coming days, some left their homes to take shelter in sturdier buildings.

The area had been particularly busy during the carnival period with families seeking to relax by the seaside.

With some of the roads which had been made impassable by the landslides cleared, visitors have been encouraged to return to their homes to ease the pressure on aid and services in the affected towns.

Landslides and flooding are not uncommon in Brazil. Last year more than 230 people were killed in Petrópolis, north of Rio de Janeiro, when torrential rains caused mudslides in the historic town.

Source : BBC News