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Dozens dead or missing in heavy rains in Rio de Janeiro state

April 7, 2010 |  6:39 pm

Rio rain mudslides

At least 119 people have died after unusually heavy rainfall hit Rio de Janeiro state in Brazil with destructive mudslides and flooding. Rescuers are digging for victims after mud toppled hillside buildings in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and nearby Niteroi.

Schools are closed, roads are flooded, and as many as 2,000 people have been forced from their homes after two days of rainfall that has been described as the strongest in four decades. Reports said nearly a foot of rain fell over the region in 24 hours.

The Brazilian news site O Globo reported 119 dead and dozens missing. This is video of the region shot from a news helicopter. The cities below are sometimes barely visible in the clouds of moisture. An astounding incident of violence amid the disaster is recounted in this AP report:

Some criminals took advantage of traffic jams caused by the flooding to rob stranded motorists, police reported.

Julia Freitas, a 25-year-old university student, told O Globo newspaper she was approached in her car by a group of men offering help.

"When I rolled down my window, one put a shard of glass to my neck and took my watch, cellphone and purse," Freitas said.

More rain is expected in the coming days. The city of Rio de Janeiro hosts the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. This week's flooding and mudslides are raising the issue of the city's readiness to host these major events, Bloomberg says in this video report.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Rescuers begin digging for mudslide victims after heavy rain in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: BBC News