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Brazil Gets More Rain; Flood Death Toll Hits 727

Army soldiers recover the body of a young landslide victim in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, Jan. 19, 2011.
AP Photo
SAO PAULO - Brazilian officials put Sao Paulo on alert Wednesday as heavy rains hit the metropolis.

In Rio state, meanwhile, deaths from last week's mudslides rose to 727.

Rains falling in Sao Paulo flooded major highways a day after downpours stranded motorists, forcing them to be rescued by helicopter from atop their vehicles.

One woman died when her house collapsed in the Tuesday rains.

The mayor's office issued flood alerts for much of the city, but no new deaths were reported Wednesday.

In towns north of Rio de Janeiro where the deadly mudslides hit last week, a break in rain allowed rescuers to step up delivery of supplies to isolated areas. They also recovered bodies, pushing up the death toll.

For days after the slides, residents in the most inaccessible areas were forced to fend for themselves, searching for the missing and the dead in the mud and constant rain, and then hiking provisions for hours up and down mountainsides.

Bad weather meant aircraft could not reach more than 20 neighborhoods and villages for days. A break in the rain and improved visibility on Sunday finally allowed 12 helicopters to begin taking supplies and rescue personnel in, and shuttling injured residents out.

The first search teams with sniffer dogs arrived Sunday, sent by the National Security Force, which is made up of military troops from various states.

Many gained experience in this kind of work from massive landslides in 2008, but the rough terrain could pose new challenges, team leader Lt. Niccolo Inacio Alves de Sousa said.

How far the bodies were scattered by the rushing floodwaters, and how deep they are buried will determine how many will be found, he said. The search also will be hampered by the lack of heavy equipment, which can't reach many slide sites due to collapsed infrastructure.