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More than 50 dead or missing as violent flash floods and mudslides hit Brazil

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At least 23 people lost their lives and more than 30 others went missing after continuous heavy downpour struck Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, causing violent flash floods and landslides. The death toll is expected to further increase as rescue teams and firefighters continue search operations. 

Some parts of the region received more than 280 mm (11 inches) of rain in just 12 hours.

18 of the fatalities were reported in Sao Paulo, the worst-affected area. Among the victims were two firemen, and a mother and her child. Rescue crew said they attempted to save the child who was under a collapsed house. 

"I express my solidarity with those who are suffering from these heavy rains," said Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria as he declared official three-day mourning across Sao Paulo on March 4.

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Image credit: Sao Paulo Civil Defense

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Image credit: Sao Paulo Civil Defense

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Image credit: Sao Paulo Civil Defense

Local residents have also started helping firefighters in the clean-up operations, as well as with the searches.

A number of houses were washed away by mudflow, displacing about 200 people particularly in the municipality of Guaruja. Residents were left desperately trying to save whatever properties they can.

Moreover, various roads and highways have been blocked by fallen trees and debris from mudslides. 

Five deaths were reported in the neighboring state of Rio de Janeiro, which was put under red alert in the past days. So far, more than 5 000 people were forced to flee their homes. The worst-hit region is the West Zone, where two days of rainfall surpassed the average for March.

Brazil's southeast region has been pounded by heavy rains early this year, triggering recurrent landslides and flooding. In late January, intense downpour dumped record-breaking amount of rainfall in the city of Belo Horizonte which killed at least 57.

Last month, rains caused rivers to burst, including the Pinheiros river which had reached its highest level since 2005.

Featured image credit: Civil Defense

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