RIO DE JANEIRO — Rescuers searched yesterday for 600 people declared missing after torrential floods ripped through cities in northeastern Brazil. The death toll rose to 44 after three bodies were found.
The easing of rains gave rescuers the chance to reach some isolated towns by boat and helicopter. Heavy machinery was used to remove destroyed homes, while search dogs scoured areas where survivors or more bodies might be found, according to the civil defense department of Alagoas state.
A fire department spokeswoman in Maceio, the capital of Alagoas, said there were no reports of survivors found — but also nothing yet to indicate the missing were dead. She spoke on condition of anonymity, per department rules.
On Tuesday, Civil Defense officials said they believed most of the missing were safe — just unable to notify relatives of their status because there was no electricity and phone service.
Massive storms last week dumped a month’s worth of water on parts of Alagoas and neighboring Pernambuco state, near the point where Brazil juts farthest east into the Atlantic. Some small towns were nearly destroyed by the flooding.
Roads were erased by flooding and bridges torn in pieces, hampering search and rescue efforts and making aid delivery more difficult. The federal Transportation Ministry announced emergency funds of $40 million to begin repairs.
At least 120,000 people were driven from their homes by the rains, but many found shelter in schools, churches, or with family members.