Death toll in Brazil rains hits 60

(CNN) — The death toll on Brazil’s southeast coast rose to 60 on Saturday as rescuers combed through mounds of debris after three days of pounding rain unleashed deadly mudslides, state officials said.

At least 41 people were killed when a large part of a mountain collapsed into mud Friday, sliding into the upscale Sankay Inn resort in Angra dos Reis, two hours west of Rio de Janeiro.

More than three inches of rain accumulated in Rio’s western regions over the past day, according to Geo-Rio, the state official weather forecast center. Brazilian forecasters are predicting more rain to come in the next few days in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Angra dos Reis is a popular destination for wealthy vacationers and celebrities, many of whom were spending New Year’s in the resort town. According to local reports, the 24-year-old son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was among the vacationers in the area this week. Pierre Sarkozy, 24, was staying at the home of Ivo Pitanguy, a top Brazilian plastic surgeon and family friend, the reports said.

The town is also home to one of Brazil’s major nuclear plants — the Central Nuclear Almirante Álvaro Alberto complex, managed by Electronuclear. Officials at the power plant denied reports they would shut down operations due to safety concerns raised by local officials.

The inundations began Wednesday. Erosion caused by the deluge created a massive crack in the Rio-Santos Highway, forcing authorities to shut down the road Saturday night.

Rio de Janeiro’s State Gov. Sergio Cabral on Friday declared three days of mourning and ordered the state’s civil defense rescue teams on duty round the clock.

In the poorer suburbs of Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Norte, several makeshift homes built on steep slopes fell victim to mudslides, leaving at least 350 people homeless, the officials said.

In nearby Jacarepagua, rescuers carried three bodies of a family of four from the wreckage of their hilltop home after it was hit by a mudslide.

CNN affiliate Record TV broadcast the rescuers’ attempt to find the family’s toddler, Mariana. After sifting through rubble, the rescuers heard her cries emanating from beneath the rubble, dug her out and carried her to safety amid cheers. But hours later, the television station reported that the girl had died.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told reporters he will send marine and naval forces to aid in rescues in remote coastal areas where more bodies were believed to be trapped.


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