Hopes fade in hunt for Brazil mudslide survivors
ANGRA DOS REIS, Brazil (AP) - January 2, 2010 -- Firefighters using heavy machinery, shovels and bare hands dug for survivors Saturday but only found corpses under a mountain of red earth and crushed lodgings - the worst of a spate of mudslides and floods that killed at least 64 people in southeastern Brazil.
At least 26 people died in the New Year's Day slide that buried an upscale resort on the island of Ilha Grande, including the 18-year-old daughter of the couple who built the waterfront lodge at the foot of a cliff side covered with rain forest.
Authorities said no foreigners were known to be among the dead and there were few details about those who died.
A torrent of mud tore a 1,000-foot scar down the hill, pushing parts of the Pousada Sankay and three neighboring houses into the sea shortly after guests had retired to their rooms following New Year's Eve celebrations.
Minutes earlier on the mainland, a torrent of reddish mud cascaded into the Carioca slum in the nearby coastal city of Angra dos Reis, killing at least 13 people and reducing rickety shacks to rubble.
The dual mudslides early on New Year's Day were triggered by 10 inches (27 centimeters) of rain that drenched the region since Wednesday.
"We came to celebrate the New Year and then all this sadness happened," Fernanda de Oliveira, a witness to the mudslide on Ilha Grande, told the O Globo newspaper.
Oliveira was staying in a house beside the Pousada Sankay when she heard a rumble in the middle of the night.
"We couldn't see what was happening. It was raining hard and the water was leaking into our house," she told the newspaper. "Suddenly, we saw people in the sea and we went down to rescue them. They were people staying in the pousada."
The lodge owners' daughter, Yumi Faraci, was apparently staying with friends she had invited for the holiday. Her parents, who were in another part of the building, survived, the woman's uncle, Antonio Faraci, told the G1 news Web site.
Nearly 80 other mudslides have been reported throughout the region in recent days. Together with flooding, they have killed at least 64 people - 39 people on Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis and another 22 people in other parts of Rio de Janeiro state. Among the dead are toddlers and teens, a pregnant woman and many older people, officials said.
Firefighters in Minas Gerais state said three elderly people died when a mudslide hit their home, the state-run Agencia Estado reported.
Another six people - all from the same family - were missing after a mudslide hit their house in the town of Cunha in Sao Paulo state, the Civil Defense there said.
Morgue authorities in Rio de Janeiro - where many bodies are being flown for identification - and Civil Defense authorities in Angra dos Reis have said all the identified victims are Brazilian. But they also say the death toll might double because many people remain missing.
In Angra dos Reis, 12 bodies from the two deadly mudslides were laid out in coffins in a school gymnasium for visitation by family and friends.
The rains halted Saturday, allowing searchers to intensify their efforts. But the muddy conditions and the hopes that survivors may still be buried under the mud meant efforts had to be carried out mostly by hand.
Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.
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