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Floods cause carnage in Brazil

BRAZILIANS huddled with livestock in shelters, paddled swollen rivers in search of food and complained that government aid was slow to arrive in a vast region stricken by some of the worst rainfall and flooding in two decades.

Authorities reported at least 33 deaths from drowning and mudslides and said 207,000 people have fled swamped, ramshackle homes. Rain continued to fall across a huge swath of the country stretching from the Amazon jungle to the northeastern Atlantic coast, and meteorologists predicted the bad weather could last for further weeks.

Rivers were rising as much as 30 centimeters a day in the hardest hit northern state of Maranhao. The surging torrents wrecked bridges and made it too dangerous for relief workers to take boats on to some waterways.

While emergency stocks of medicine and food were being airlifted into airports, many affected towns lacked workers to organize aid distribution after shipments arrived, said Major Wellington Soares Araujo, head of logistics for Maranhao civil defense.

The army evacuated thousands of people from two towns where tiled roofs barely poked above swirling waters. Residents packed into gyms, schools and tents erected on higher ground.

"There's no houses, there isn't enough food, they even have a shortage of tents," Araujo said.

Television images showed hundreds of people with pets and chickens crowded inside an abandoned hospital-turned shelter with only one working bathroom. Some victims paddled canoes to retrieve belongings from inundated homes, and children said they had no food. Isolated cases of looting were reported.


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