Death toll from Brazil landslides rises to 65

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 The death toll has climbed to 65 a week after heavy rains sparked deadly floods and landslides along the coast of Brazil’s southeastern Sao Paulo state, local authorities said Sunday.

Among the fatal victims were 19 minors, the state government said in a statement, adding “the priority continues to be relief for the victims.”

Army troops, firefighters, volunteers and rescue workers are still digging to recover the bodies of the victims and search for people still missing.

Most of the victims lived in poor neighborhoods in high-risk areas on the slopes of the Sierra de Mar mountain range, near Barra do Sahy, a beach in Sao Sebastiao.

Around 2,440 people who lost their homes had to be evacuated due to the risk of new landslides.

On Sunday, coastal roads were reopened after being closed due to landslides and storm damage. However, the highway that links Mogi da Cruzes with Bertioga in Sao Paulo state will remain closed for six months since the rains destroyed its drainage system.

On Feb. 19, the coastal cities of Bertioga, Caraguatatuba, Guaruja, Ilhabela, Sao Sebastiao and Ubatuba saw record pouring rain in Brazil in less than 24 hours. Sao Sebastiao’s beach, one of Brazil’s exclusive tourism destinations, was drenched within one day with more than twice the amount of rain usually seen in February.

It is estimated that around 4 million Brazilians live in 14,000 areas which are at risk from natural disasters, according to data from the Brazilian Ministry of Integration and Regional Development. 

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