Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is due to visit a string of mountain towns devastated by floods and landslides, as the death toll from the disaster reached at least 361.
Heavy rains on Tuesday night triggered some of the deadliest landslides in Brazilian history, sending mud sweeping through three towns and burying entire families as they slept.
In Teresópolis, a small town about 60 miles from Rio de Janeiro, 146 deaths have been confirmed, but local authorities expect that figure to rise.
In the neighbouring town of Nova Friburgo, at least 155 bodies have been recovered.
A Brazilian TV network claimed this morning that more than 419 people had died in Rio state and that as many as 1,000 people could still be missing.
About 1,000 people were left homeless as the waters smashed through Teresópolis, destroying homes, powerlines and roads. The mayor, Jorge Mario Sedlacek, decreed a state of emergency, calling the calamity “the worst to hit the town”. About 800 search-and-rescue workers from the state’s civil defence department and firefighters dug for survivors.
Marquinho Maia, a press officer who was helping out at the morgue, said last night: “We pulled at least 16 bodies out this morning. Kids, old people. All dead. It’s horrible. The city has never had so many fatalities.”