From The Telegraph:
The death toll from mudslides and floods in Rio de Janeiro state in Brazil has risen to 541, making it the country's worst-ever natural disaster.
Rescue teams pulling bodies from the debris and searching for survivors were interrupted on Friday morning as moderate rainfall returned to the area, provoking fears of further landslides.
More bodies are expected to be found when the search resumes as rescuers and firefighters reach villages in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro cut off by the destruction of roads and bridges. The worst affected towns were Novo Friburgo, which had recorded 247 deaths, Teresopolis, with 231 deaths, and Petropolis, with 43 deaths, according to municipal officials.
The number of dead surpassed the estimated 437 killed by mudslides in 1967 in Caraguatatuba in Sao Paulo state in what was previously considered Brazil's worst disaster, according to Brazilian media.
"It's very overwhelming. The scenes are very shocking," President Dilma Rousseff said after visiting the area on Thursday, less than two weeks after being sworn in.
She pledged "strong action" by her government, which has already released £296m in emergency aid to the area and sent seven tonnes of medical supplies to the area. The catastrophe will be seen as her first significant test since replacing Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as critics began to question why the government has not spent more on disaster prevention measures. Sergio Cabral, the Rio state governor, urged people in affected areas to seek shelter elsewhere, saying: "The weather forecast is not reassuring, and new mudslides could occur."
Heavy rainfall is common in south-east Brazil in January but this year has been exceptionally severe.
Storms in the early hours of Wednesday saw the equivalent of a month's rainfall in the space of a few hours over the affected towns, triggering mudslides that destroyed homes and buried people as they slept.
Churches, schools and police stations were turned into makeshift morgues and relatives of missing people crowded outside as they attempted to gain information about the fate of their loved ones.
Survivors described the scenes they witnessed as being like "hell" or a scene from a horror film.
Around 14,000 people have been left homeless, either because their houses were completely destroyed or are unsafe to return to.