* Deaths from floods, slides reach 702 outside Rio
* Many victims believed to be buried still
* Some still refuse to abandon at-risk homes
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 18 The death toll from
flash floods and mudslides in Rio de Janeiro's picturesque
Serrana region reached 702 on Tuesday, a number that is likely
to rise further in one of Brazil's worst natural disasters on
Authorities say many residents in the region are still
missing -- some believed to be buried. Hundreds of people are
still in areas at risk of fresh mudslides, some cut off from
help by washed out roads and bridges while others refuse to
leave for fear their houses will be looted.
The death toll is still rising daily as rescuers dig out
more bodies from the wreckage. Authorities have ventured no
estimates of the number of missing, but local papers estimated
on Monday over 100 people are unaccounted for.
Rains let up during the day on Tuesday in the disaster-hit
areas but picked up again in southeast Brazil on Tuesday
Army helicopters have been carrying out rescue and supply
operations to attend to residents cut off from help for nearly
a week since rains unleashed a sudden spate of hillside mud,
trees and boulders on the tourist towns below, sweeping away or
In the hilly resort region north of Rio de Janeiro city,
Nova Friburgo has registered the greatest number of deaths with
335, followed by Teresopolis with 285.
"We are advising people who live in areas of the highest
risk to leave their homes," Rubens Placido of the Nova Friburgo
Fire Department said. "There are people that don't want to
leave, so we are checking with the courts if we can obtain
support from the police force."
Populist politics and lack of urban planning across much of
Brazil has allowed the construction of whole neighborhoods in
areas with high risk of flooding and mudslides.
The federal government has earmarked 780 million reais
($463.5 million) in emergency aid for the region.
On Tuesday, President Dilma Rousseff met with World Bank
officials who said they were working out the final details on a
$485 million emergency relief loan to the state of Rio de
Janeiro for the disaster hit areas.
"We hope the first tranche of the loan, $290 million, can
be approved in the coming weeks," said Makhtar Diop, director
of the World Bank for Brazil.
(Writing by Reese Ewing, Editing by Sandra Maler)