Rio rescuers dig for victims of landslides
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(Reuters) – Rescuers in Rio de Janeiro dug desperately in mud and debris on Wednesday to try to find dozens of people missing from floods and landslides that have killed 110 people in Brazil’s second-biggest city.
The heaviest rains in more than four decades that started on Monday triggered at least 180 mudslides that crushed shacks in hillside slums, causing most of the deaths and leaving 54 people missing.
The city famed for its beaches and Carnival slowly returned to normal on Wednesday, but forecasters warned of more rain. The death toll was likely to rise as rescue teams searched for victims buried under torrents of mud and debris.
Firemen struggled for hours to rescue an 8-year-old boy who had called for help from the rubble of a collapsed house in one hillside slum, only to find that the child had died by the time they could reach him.
“I promised his father I would get the boy out alive but I couldn’t,” tearful fireman Luis Carlos dos Santos said.
The mudslide in Rio’s historic Santa Teresa area killed 17 people.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes urged people living in high-risk areas to stay away from their homes. The government’s weather service predicted rain to continue until Saturday, though it had stopped and clouds had broken by midday.
Authorities say at least 10,000 houses are still at risk of collapse. The national government has sent additional security forces to help with rescue operations.

OLYMPIC CONCERNS

Transportation chaos renewed attention on Rio’s poor infrastructure as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement it planned to have discussions with Rio officials once the situation returns to normal about how the disaster might affect preparations for the games.
“We remain confident that Rio will stage top-quality Games in 2016,” the statement said.
Fire department officials said 43 people had died in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and 60 in nearby Niteroi while the remainder died in other parts of Rio de Janeiro state.
In one Niteroi slum, residents desperately searched for survivors in rubble left from 10 houses that collapsed from a mudslide, the Globo network reported.
“I lost my sister-in-law and a niece, and my nephew and brother-in-law are still missing,” nurse Samuel Franca, who managed to rescue his sister from the wreckage the day before, told Globo.
Traffic was moving again in most parts of Rio after nearly grinding to a halt on Tuesday, though Paes urged people to postpone meetings and avoid unnecessary trips. Schools remained shut for a second day.
“From the point of view of mobility, the situation is better than yesterday,” Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters.
The mayor on Tuesday said 1,200 people had been left homeless and that 10,000 houses remained at risk, mostly in the slums where about a fifth of Rio’s people live, often in precarious shacks that are vulnerable to heavy rains.
In January, at least 76 people died in flooding and mudslides in Brazil’s most populous states of Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Then, dozens of people were killed in a landslide at a beach resort between Rio and the port city of Santos

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