Rescuers are warning that the death toll from Brazil’s floods is likely to rise as they struggle to reach remote areas cut off by landslides.
More rain is expected in the mountainous Serrana region, north of Rio, following a week which saw a month’s rain fall in 24 hours on Tuesday.
The official death toll has been put at 495 after the rains triggered flooding and landslips that tore through mountain villages and towns, in some cases burying families as they slept. But rescuers fearing many more bodies would be discovered, with scores thought to have been buried alive as they slept.
More than 13,500 people have been left homeless.
The towns worst hit were Teresopolis, Nova Friburgo and Petropolis.
In Teresopolis, 40 miles north of Rio, 223 people died and bodies had to be taken to a nearby church after the town’s morgue filled up. The official death toll in Nova Friburgo stands at 214, with four firefighters who were helping in the relief efforts among the dead.
The recently-elected president, Dilma Rousseff, signed a measure sending $461 million to towns that were damaged during the recent rains. The money will go to repairing infrastructure and preventing future disasters.
Survivors waded through waist-high water, carrying what belongings they could, trying to reach higher ground or trying desperately to find relatives.
Rescuers used heavy machinery, shovels and bare hands to dig through debris in a search for survivors Wednesday.
The mayor of Teresopolis, Jorge Mario Sedlacek, decreed a state of emergency, calling the calamity “the worst to hit the town”.
Heavy rainfall also fell in Minas Gerais state, north of Rio, where 16 people have died in the past month and dozens of communities are in a state of emergency.
In Sao Paulo, flooding paralyzed main streets in the city since Sunday and 21 people died in mudslides and flooding throughout the state.