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Brazil president tours flood-hit areas

Brazil’s new president has visited flood-hit areas in the southeastern town of Nova Friburgo, as the death toll from the disaster surpasses the 500 milestone.

Dilma Rousseff, accompanied by Brazil’s defense minister and Rio’s governor, flew over the mountainous region on Thursday to assess the damage.

Rousseff, who was sworn in as president on January 1, has pledged swift measures by her government to deal with the situation.

On Wednesday, she signed a decree authorizing 467 million dollars in emergency aid for the affected areas.

Over 500 people have so far been killed as floods and mudslides have swept away entire neighborhoods near Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile, rescue workers continue their search for survivors.

Rivers, mud and rocks have raged out of the mountains situated in the north of Rio de Janeiro, flattening villages and homes in three municipalities.

Bridges and roads have been destroyed and telephone services cut, making it very difficult for authorities to assess the full extent of the disaster.

Two to three weeks of downpour triggered the mudslides as rivers burst their banks.

In Teresopolis alone, officials say more than 150 people have been buried and 2,000 homes destroyed.

Moreover, some villages have not yet been reached while more rain is expected in the coming days.

The health ministry says it has sent enough medication to treat 45,000 people for a month. Meanwhile, 800 search and rescue workers and firefighters continue efforts to dig for survivors.

Meteorologists have blamed the unusual downpours on a cold front that has intensified the heavily wet season which southeastern Brazil commonly experiences every summer.

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