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Death toll from Brazil downpours hits 48, dozens still missing

SAO PAULO, Feb 22 (Reuters) – The death toll from heavy rains that devastated coastal areas of Brazil’s southeastern Sao Paulo state reached 48 people, official figures showed on Wednesday, but dozens were still missing as search and rescue efforts continued.

“We are currently working with a tally of at least 38 missing people,” Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio de Freitas told reporters as weather forecasters cautioned more rain was expected later in the day.

Massive downpours have caused landslides and flooding since last weekend in coastal towns of Brazil’s richest state, so far hit by more than 600 millimeters (23.6 inches) of rain, the highest cumulative figure ever in the country.

The number of casualties rose from 46 reported a day earlier, the Sao Paulo state government said in a statement.

The city of Sao Sebastiao, located some 200 km (124.3 miles) from Sao Paulo, bore the brunt of the human toll, with 47 of the reported deaths. But nearby towns such as Ilhabela, Caraguatatuba, Bertioga and Ubatuba were also heavily affected.

The state government said more rain was expected on Wednesday as a new cold front favors the formation of heavy clouds over the region, with “moderate to heavy showers” forecast to fall until early evening, after a cloudy morning.

Key roads such as the Mogi-Bertioga and Rio-Santos highways remained blocked due to landslides, the government added, while state-run water company Sabesp (SBSP3.SA) managed to restore water supply to the region.

The floods in coastal Sao Paulo state were the latest in a series of such disasters to recently strike Brazil, where shoddy construction, often on hillsides, can have tragic consequences during the country’s rainy season.

The deluge happened as tourists thronged to local beaches during the annual Carnival holiday, likely making the human toll much worse.

Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Eduardo Simoes; Editing by Steven Grattan

Source : Reuters