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Death Toll at 49 in Brazil Storm

May 01, 1996| Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — The death toll from torrential rains and mudslides earlier this week in the northeastern city of Recife rose to 49 on Tuesday.

Distraught relatives and civil defense workers continued the search for bodies in the coastal state capital, where entire shantytowns were buried by tons of debris and entire families were killed as they slept Monday night.

"I'll keep digging until I find a body," said teenager Joao Luis de Souza, looking for his mother, father and two brothers. "I just won't give up until I find them."

Psychologists joined firefighters and civil defense workers to urge slum dwellers to evacuate high-risk areas in Recife, nearly 1,200 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

Though Monday's storm damaged homes in middle-class areas, most of the deaths occurred in slums on the outskirts of the city, where rickety huts sat precariously on hillsides.

It was unclear how many people were injured in the mudslides or how many were homeless, said Fernanda Santos, a spokeswoman for the city's fire department.

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